Monday, May 30, 2011

Gardening Advice for Rick Snyder

"Plant your peas on St. Patrick's Day and you'll harvest them on Memorial Day," my grandmother told me once.

As a farm wife, Grandma knew a thing or two about making things grow. And she meant that advice literally. I did exactly what she said a couple years and did in fact have fresh peas in late May.

Of course, Grandma -- and I -- both knew that while you could plant peas on St. Patrick's Day, you wouldn't dare do that with tomatoes or sweet corn. Different crops, different planting schedule. There's no one-size fits all when it comes to growing things.

But when it comes to growing businesses, Rick Snyder seems to think one size does fit all. His approach -- no taxes for most businesses and hope they create jobs -- is far removed from what most states are doing and what Michigan has been doing -- targeting incentives to growth industries.

Snyder won't even promise that his approach will create jobs. Even if it were to create jobs, it will do nothing to diversify Michigan's economy by making it a center for a new industry, such as wind power or the film industry.

And Snyder does not seem to care. He is perfectly content to ride the resurgence of the auto industry back to prosperity and let it go at that. If a film studio happens to locate here, that's OK with him, but he's not going to do anything to make that happen.

Why would a film studio locate here now? Because of low taxes? Businesses thrive on synergy, on a community of like-minded people in the same field. Having a critical mass of people in the same field leads to professional organizations where ideas are shared, ties with colleges and universities that train the people you need to hire, a culture that values and promotes what you do. Kind of like Silicon Valley. In the computer software field. And aren't computers supposed to be what Snyder knows a lot about?

Michigan was well on its way to developing new industries like wind energy, film, and advanced batteries until Snyder's budget pulled the rug out from under them.

The state is now back to the equivalent of planting all the crops on St. Patrick's Day and hoping something besides peas survives by Memorial Day.

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