The Detroit News: State needs real recovery, not corporate subsidies

The Detroit News | Opinion Editorials

December 8, 2011 at 1:00 am

By State Rep. Jeff Farrington

Every time I drive through our Motor City, I see too many abandoned homes, too few available jobs, more vacant storefronts than I can bear and remnants of what once was the pride of generations whose industrial strength showed the world what it means to make something in Detroit.

I see these things, and while crushed, I know there’s something we can do about it.

As we work to develop solutions aimed at bringing Detroit back to its strongest days, there are generally two paths we can take — real reform or fake recovery. Recent news of a $3.3 million state tax credit for Meijer to build a supercenter on the urban fringe of Detroit is a half-sincere effort on the part of government to engineer synthetic jobs at a time we cannot afford it. Fake recovery like this certainly comes with an expensive price tag, doesn’t it?

Now, I’ll be the first to advocate the need for Michigan to become a better environment for job growth, but simply throwing hard-earned taxpayer dollars into the pockets of a corporation — albeit a Michigan one — who drew in $14 billion last year alone doesn’t change the environment, it merely creates propped up jobs on the government dime. Perhaps even worse, this deal could force smaller businesses nearby to shut down.

Because we’re only as strong as our weakest link, if we are to bring Michigan back, we must restore Detroit’s strength by enacting real reforms to our entire tax code — for all businesses, small and large — for real jobs to truly take root. And, when these reforms are made, they should be out front, in the public eye, not behind closed doors like the multi-million dollar sweetheart deal the Michigan Economic Development Authority worked out with Meijer.

Thankfully, this deal has not yet been sealed. We all have time to speak up and let the administration know we can’t afford to throw millions of dollars at big businesses while there are many locally owned grocery stores within the same community — and a Sam’s Club just two miles down the road.

Sure, if this deal were legitimate, completed with no tax subsidy from government, I would have no problem if Meijer opened the store at the Redford High location. Letting market principles lead the transaction, the Detroit Public Schools would still receive the much needed money it stands to gain from the sale of its property, but our state taxpayers would save millions. Most importantly, the jobs created would be real — just like the recovery that would come for the surrounding area.

I’m confident Michigan can recover and grow jobs if we abandon the false notion that jobs can be bought. In fact, every other time the state has subsidized a grocery store chain in Detroit, it has failed, leaving even more good workers without a job in its wake. Meanwhile, local family-owned stores risk their investments daily without Michigan tax dollars.

There are no shortcuts to recovery. We cannot allow government to pick winners and losers. Our strongest industries in Detroit began not from a government handout, but instead, risk and ingenuity unique to the spirit of Michigan.

Here in America, we don’t buy jobs, we create them, and here in Michigan, we can’t mistake fake recovery for real reform.

State Rep. Jeff Farrington is a Republican from Utica. Email comments to

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