Thursday, February 12, 2009

Governor Granholm, 1995 is on the Phone for You

One of the most embarrassing attempts at economic development over the last five years has been Michigan's Cool Cities initiative. The state woke up to the Internet boom about four years after the industry went bust, and decided in 2003 to focus on attracting creative workers, not just industrial companies.

This strategy, adopted by just about every other state in the mid-90s, meant showcasing lifestyle benefits, and referencing the work of every author who had written some "knowledge worker" hype piece in 1995. Needless to say, Flint hasn't become the next Austin, and VCs have yet to start camping out in Grand Rapids.

Just to make sure this silly economic development strategy fails, jittery Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (seriously he's like Tweak from South Park) is telling anyone who'll listen that we need to re-write all of our trade agreements and stop letting all those foreign imports into this country. I understand that the mayor, who really should switch to decaf, is trying to protect the autoworkers who voted for him and the unions who funded him. Problem is if you're trying to attract new workers and new industries, chances are really good they're going to have customers overseas, and will need those trade agreements to sell products.

Much like the Internet bubble, it's time to put Cool Cities into the history books. Lansing has every right to protect its current workers from foreign competition. It just needs to stop expecting people who sell to foreigners to move there.

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