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Agency says state economic development more than “corporate welfare”

Mar 10, 2017

For years, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative, free-market think tank, has been critical of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), calling it secretive and referring to it as the state's corporate welfare arm.

Last week we talked to James Hohman with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy about the MEDC. 

One of the Mackinac Center's criticisms is that the MEDC uses its billions of dollars to pick winners and losers in the business world. Steve Arwood, CEO of the MEDC, joined Stateside to respond to that criticism and discuss his organization's efforts to boost the state's economy.

Arwood said the argument of "picking winners and losers" has been made for a long time in different areas of government. 

"It's a one-dimensional view," Arwood said. "Michigan cannot stand alone as an island and take the attitude that nobody else is doing this either. It's a much broader discussion than just what Michigan is doing. If Michigan is doing something and other states are doing other things, there are a lot of reasons why the competitive nature of this business may change, and I think that's the thing that's lost in this argument of picking winners and losers."

Arwood said the MEDC is doing more than just helping companies financially. 

"The business incentives are just one small part of what our economic development effort is overall," said Arwood, referencing the "Live, Work, Play" and the "Pure Michigan" efforts. "It's about wanting people to come here, stay here, work here, raise a family here. It's not just business incentives."

Listen to the full interview to hear Arwood talk about what the MEDC does when a company that's received financial incentives fails, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA) program that was discontinued in 2011, and if there is a real return on investment from these programs.

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