City of Grand Rapids’ economic ‘help’ for ‘business’ is confounding

The city of Grand Rapids’ Economic Development Corporation “approved two agreements to help boost minority business development” in the “greater Grand Rapids area.” The Business Journal has reported on hundreds of minority businesses in the three-county area. The very definition of “business” would seem an oxymoron to this use of taxpayer dollars. Those dollars have been granted to two nonprofits — underwriting the agencies, not businesses. The Business Journal finds it to be more of a confounding social experiment rather than good business. A free market economy is an economic system where the government does not interfere in business activity in any way. Picking winners and losers with artificial props is never good or sustainable. It certainly isn’t free market trade (one only need ask farmers about accepting unwelcome and unwanted government subsidies while trade war policy obliterates profits).

The city is attempting to add itself to programs and business resources that fill this space, including Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Elevate Minority Business program, West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Transformando West Michigan program, among others, not to mention Rende Progress Capital (RPC), in the Goei Center, formed specifically as a certified community development financial institution by minority business partners to promote economic revitalization and community development in low-income communities through investment in and assistance specifically for minority businesses, including Asian. Grand Rapids Community Foundation awarded $300,000 in funding to Urban Core Collective, a consortium of six local organizations focused on obtaining equal access to education, economic prosperity, health, power and influence, announced July 20. The Downtown Development Authority decided two years ago to “help” minority businesses establish in the downtown, in the highest rent rate per square foot anywhere in the region (and no parking).

Further, one stated purpose is to analyze and guide companies to create “more inclusive, diverse workforces.” Unemployment stands at near zero. Company after company pleads daily for talent and recruitment. It is the No. 1 issue among all business.

Is the city or its handpicked vendors of “assistance” requiring audits or P&L reports? Does it then attempt to set salaries and wages? Will it then determine the cost of goods or services? What is proffered is a false narrative. Unless one looks at how the city recently decided to serve medical marijuana businesses: with a $5,000 annual fee to operate, providing a product for medical treatment.

Beware, as Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Or more famously: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: “I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

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