Economic development miracles | Arkansas Blog

Friday, December 24, 2010

Economic development miracles

Posted By on Fri, Dec 24, 2010 at 6:55 AM

A reader sends another news article from Kentucky about developers of the creationism theme park— truly a Six Flags Over Jesus concept — seeking still more government support in Kentucky, this time for a freeway interchange.

The article is instructive on a number of counts. It includes a rich list of previous articles about the controversial park. I particularly liked this one. It seems the feasibility study cited by the state on the fabulous numbers of tourists and jobs that are to be created by the project was never viewed by anyone in state government and the developers won't make it available to the press.

“The press release was a joint effort, and the Ark Encounter provided the numbers for the release based on their own research, much like how we work with companies on jobs announcements — they give us the info about their job numbers and investment and we work together on a release,” Kerri Richardson, a spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Beshear, told the newspaper in an e-mail.

Friends, this is how the economic development shell game too often works. Governments pass out money, bushels of it, based on grandiose promises. News releases regurgitate the promises. Rarely does anyone check back to see if promises were fulfilled, much less justified in the first place. The government economic development jobs — a huge industry in itself — depend on the everything-is-rosy scenario. It is how, for example, the Little Rock mayor and the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce can claim an explosion of economic development here thanks to their efforts while, demonstrably, the city is mostly moribund. (Yes, I know, other economies are worse. Thank goodness for the capital city's full complement of government and medical center employment.)

Promise now, worry later about the quacks, liars and unsafe operators dredged up regularly by the corporate welfare system. It's only going to get worse on taxpayers. Tax credits are no longer the giveaway of choice. Direct payment of taxpayer money (such as $200,000 to the LR Chamber) is much preferred. Mississippi County taxes groceries of county residents to provide direct cash grants to companies already in town, such as a handout recently approved for a greeting card plant's mechanical upgrades. Call it economic development. Call it ransom for jobs. Maybe the Arkansas Times should apply to the Little Rock City Board of Directors for some money for computer system upgrades. We could call it a service contract for independent journalism.

Free market? Socialism? Next time some good suit spits those words at you in a huff of righteousness, ask about corporate welfare and whether he accepts it.

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