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SBAM Testifies Before House Committee on Economic Development

February 13, 2010

This week, SBAM President and CEO Rob Fowler made a presentation before the House New Economy and Quality of Life Committee.

The central topic of the hearing was “Michigan at the Crossroads:  Ideas for Michigan’s Economic Development.”  Chairman Ed Clemente invited SBAM to speak on this important topic.

The SBAM presentation focused on economic gardening.  The concept of economic gardening is centered on an economic development theory that more should be done to provide a friendly business environment and the tools needed to assist businesses to start and grow in Michigan.

Fowler pointed out that currently the state’s economic development tools are primarily geared toward hunting.  Hunting is the idea of offering credits and incentives to attract companies to move here.  To support this argument we presented data from the Edward Lowe Foundation that looks at 15 years of job growth and loss.  The data shows that the vast majority of net job growth from 1993-2007 is a result of existing companies expanding; not new companies that come to Michigan.

SBAM contends that we need a more balanced approach with more of a focus on gardening and less on hunting.  Both should be used a part of Michigan’s economic development approach. 

The presentation also argued that we need to pursue a more horizontal approach rather than a vertical approach to helping businesses succeed.  One area of concern with the current strategy is that it awards businesses in certain types of industries instead of being a broad-based approach that would help all businesses.  The state should not be involved in picking winners and losers.  We should be helping businesses of all types grow and be successful.

We have been discussing the economic gardening approach with the various candidates for state office and will continue to do so throughout the year.

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