MML#4: SaveMICity Campaign Looks at Lessons from Amazon Loss
(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 9, 2018)
Lansing, MI – Local governments have been “doing more with less” for years, but what may Michiganders may not realize is that every other state in America has been increasing the amount of investment in communities, while Michigan has been decreasing it.
This means less funding for roads, parks, police and fire services, infrastructure improvements, economic development efforts, code enforcement and all the other services that local governments provide for their residents and the businesses that invest there.
The Save MI City Campaign of the Michigan Municipal League launched two years ago to help change the conversation about how cities, townships, counties, and villages get funded. At the recent MML Capital Conference, Deputy Executive Director Anthony Minghine gave an update about the status of local funding, using Amazon as a prime example.
Detroit was recently passed over by the online shopping giant to be home of their second North American headquarters. And while it may seem like an isolated decision, Minghine posited that the reasons Michigan missed out with Amazon are the same reason other companies chose other places for their facilities.
“We know what Amazon was looking for. This was no secret,” Minghine said. The first criteria was site building. Michigan has plenty of empty buildings to repurpose and land that could be used for new construction.
The second criteria was capital and operations, which Michigan was not lacking.
The third criteria was incentives. “Yeah, we got that,” Minghine said. “We’re good at giving away our revenue sources.”
The fourth was labor force. “There was a time when we had the most skilled people in the country. We have been talking about people leaving Michigan for ten years… We’ve been sounding this alarm for a decade but it’s fallen on deaf ears.”
The fifth criteria was logistics. “Transit, yeah we don’t do that here,” Minghine said.
The sixth criteria was time to operation, which could be impacted by the shortage of skilled labor.
The seventh was ability to work with local government. “What they were looking for was a willing government, but we didn’t have the ability to deliver,” he said.
Lastly, community and quality of life were part of the decision-making process. Minghine said that in Michigan, “we can point to pockets that are cool, but we’re not providing the infrastructure for that to really happen.”
He shared a slide that showed that Michigan is the only state to have a decline in general revenue for municipalities from 2002-2012. Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina and Iowa are the ones leading the pack.
“We’re at a crossroads,” Minghine said. “Do we want to be the cheapest or do we want to be the best? No business says ‘find me the cheapest place. I don’t care how safe it is. I don’t care how bad the roads are. Just get me the cheapest place… We pay a premium to be desirable places.”
SaveMICity’s website is a hub for information about the topic of municipal finance, including research done by outside sources, as well as charts and infographic to help communities have conversations about what investing in local communities can mean.
Minghine’s conclusion resonated with the scores of local elected officials and city administrators at the conference. “50th will not get us Amazon.”
This article is the fourth in a series of articles about the Michigan Municipal League Capital conference held March 20-21, 2018. If you aren’t already on our list for Daily Headlines, please sign up HERE so you won’t miss any of this exciting and informative series! Find other MML related articles HERE.
For more on Michigan Municipal League, check out their website at http://www.mml.org.