This afternoon the Grand Rapids Press reported that a Harvard University study found that the City of Grand Rapids ranked third out of 82 cities in the nation in percentage of job losses from 1995 to 2003. During that period Grand Rapids lost nearly one-fifth of the jobs that had been within the city limits. Only Amarillo, Texas, and Detroit suffered a more severe decline.
So much for taxpayer-funded economic development. Michael Porter, the Harvard business professor who conducted the study, found that none of the cities that gained the most jobs -- Jersey City, Long Beach, Tulsa, Anaheim, and Seattle -- participated in federal empowerment zones and other federal programs designed to create inner-city jobs. But this was no surprise. Alan Berube of the liberal think tank, the Brookings Institution, noted that these economic development programs are marginal at best in creating new jobs.
Apparently none of our local economic development officials, such as Susan Shannon, the Business Advocate for the City of Grand Rapids, and Birgit Klohs, Executive Director of the Right Place Program, had anything to say about the dismal ranking of River City. Instead of questioning their job-creating performance while on the taxpayers' dime during these past several years, they would prefer to divert everyone's attention to the dream of bio-tech riches they tell us will be showered upon Grand Rapids somewhere in the distant future ... but only if we now pony up more in tax dollars and donations.
Instead of listening to yet another siren song of government-sponsored prosperity, we should keep in mind the wasted tax dollars we have already handed over to economic developers while Grand Rapids lost one out of every five jobs located here.