Dont leave business education home alone

April 2, 2012
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The Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism held in Grand Rapids last week was the best attended in recent memory. One might regard that as yet another sign of a state recovering from a deep recession. Gov. Rick Snyder addressed the group noting, “I have made consistent and substantial funding for Pure Michigan a top priority of my administration.”

But in the bigger picture of life in Michigan, one should contemplate the possibilities if the governor would commit to education funding issues in the same manner.

The Business Journal does not quibble here with the success of the national tourism campaign as defined by economic analysis, but does take issue with components of the program now driving local and regional funding into a mix with state funds, and leaving local businesses with little or no budget to reach their home bases.

State funding also has been pulled from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. with the idea that tourists who are business owners might pull up stakes in other states to do business in Michigan.

The Snyder administration talks incessantly about local business and economic gardening of start-up businesses. It appears an incongruity when the state then asks those small businesses to fund promotions on behalf of the state — to agencies and entities outside of the state — even while usurping local resources. Is this not an additional “tax” of those local businesses and associations caught in the blinding lights of glitzy campaigns that make one feel good … until realizing the coffer to boost local, root business is empty? The state is now counting on the dollars from almost 40 such “partners.”

Even amid glowing reports of tourism increases and self-congratulation, regional and state tourism leaders also candidly acknowledge that the biggest boost in (for instance) Detroit hotel-motel occupancy rates was due to business travelers. The Business Journal has reported on those increases in this region as measured by several sources this past year, and enthusiasm is at a five-year high for the anticipated increase in business travel this year.

The sub-reports are incongruous with any proclamation that Michigan is yet a destination for U.S. travelers (or world travelers). The Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association was the group actually creating the conference event last week — not the governor, and its strength in numbers is a loud lobbying cry for continued funding benefitting that Michigan universe of businesses.

Education funding is not as much fun, but its return on investment is vastly greater, especially to local businesses. Michigan House Education Committee chair Lisa Posthumus Lyons should be encouraged to carry the message from Business Leaders for Michigan and the growing and vast body of economic research tied to state education levels to the next budget meeting.

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