Recovery Zones Remove Head From Sand

September 18, 2006
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Municipalities across the state have used the Tool and Die Recovery Zone tax abatement application deadline (this week) to decry the misery of the state legislature’s reduced state revenue sharing.

As the Business Journal vehemently noted here several times earlier this year, the legislature not only cut funds unequivocally due to local governments, but assured hidden taxes in the domino effect.

While the Recovery Zone process provided a pulpit for grandstanding, none blamed manufacturers for the actions of legislators. None save the city of Wyoming, whose elected officials and city staff have refused to educate themselves about the issue, and even denied discussion of it.

That’s akin to sticking one’s head in the sand. And then some of those city commissioners heaped more misery in exceptionally rude behavior as manufacturers sought to be heard.

One might ask the wisdom of insulting one’s constituents, particularly those constituents providing an increasing number of jobs; constituents that continue to pay for public schools and libraries.

City commissioners actually indicated they believe manufacturing is “dead.” And well it might be in this particular municipality, but it is self-imposed. As noted in the story, “Manufacturing China” on page B2 in this issue, the Grand Rapids area ranked No. 6 in the World Knowledge Competitiveness Index, and Michigan Future Inc. specifically noted that the Grand Rapids area’s strength is in a local machining and metalworking industry concentration three times that of the nation and twice that of Detroit. The HarvardBusinessSchool rates the local production equipment and technology industries as one the strongest clusters in the world. But Wyoming city staff and council won’t know that with their heads up their … sand. The legislation is aptly named “Recovery” Zone.

Wyoming has required companies to provide five years of complete personal and company financial information to public record. No American would do such a thing, most especially not the Wyoming politicians and public servants requesting a thorough stripping of its business community. The wildness of the requirement is not only embarrassing and insulting, it’s a death threat to any company that might attempt to comply by opening the company strategy to every competitor in the world economy. The point of the Zone is to foster coalitions that strengthen such competitiveness. Robb Machine Tool Co. President Phil Parsh told the Business Journal, “Now I’m having trouble competing with firms three miles away from me (outside of Wyoming where Zones are abated), much less China. It just isn’t right. This is America; the guy two miles down the road shouldn’t have a different set of rules than what I have.”

Wyoming city policy on this issue saves nothing but does further erode and threaten its lifeblood. Should business continue to leave and avoid the suburban city, there will be no need for a city commission.    

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