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Friday, November 12, 2010


Recently, the Burleigh County Commission slashed the amount of money they typically give to the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association, Lewis and Clark Regional Development Council, and the Bismarck Mandan Chamber of Commerce by 25%. The cuts were made because their services are increasingly not needed. After all, the unemployment rate for the Bismarck-Mandan area is 3.1%, which is generally considered to be full employment.

The Bismarck Tribune did not even bother to explain why the commission decided to cut funding to the organizations. But the discussion about taxpayer-funded job development is long overdue and is finally taking place.

Why are taxpayers being forced to pay for “job development”? The public’s involvement in job development has a very dubious recent history. Take, for instance, the Northern Plains Commerce Centre. The City of Bismarck has contributed about $16 million to the center since it was started. Bobcat was the only tenant of the center. Few if any jobs have been created as a result of the $16 million “investment”.

Many say that the center was built to keep Bobcat in Bismarck. Well, that didn’t happen either.

And since Bobcat shut down their manufacturing operations in Bismarck, the area managed to move on.

So if the Bismarck area can absorb a $16 million bad investment in “economic development” and the loss of hundreds of jobs when Bobcat closed down its plant, then why is public assistance needed?

Think of the number of jobs that were not created by local businesses because of the sales tax imposed on consumers to fund the Northern Plains Commerce Centre. While the Burleigh County Commission cut funding for job development because of the low unemployment, the economy in Bismarck is relatively good despite the best efforts of the “economic developers”. Cutting the job development portion of the county budget is a good idea, but not because they are doing so well at creating jobs.

Imagine how much true economic development there would be if taxes were not kept high to fund the activities of groups like the BMDA.
Granted, BMDA and the Chamber of Commerce provide valuable services to businesses. If they didn’t, businesses would not become members of their organizations. But those services should be paid for by the businesses that utilize them and see value in them, not by those who do not.

Funding job development is little more than a feel-good, “we’re doing something” program designed to increase the power of government at the expense of the taxpaying public. It’s simply bad public policy.

Brett Narloch is the Executive Director of the North Dakota Policy Council, an educational free-market think tank.  He was the Legislative Director for the North Dakota Republican Party.  He was born and raised in Minto, ND. He graduated from the University of North Dakota in 2004 as an Honors Scholar with a degree in History.



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Well articulated, Brett! Another growing problem is the government advertising in the media that is brainwashing our citizens on an hourly basis. I’m getting real tired of hearing how great Obamacare is..paid for with my tax dollars! and this is beong done at all levels of government. Time to restrict it to public safety and health…oops that’s not enough is it? The Obamacare commercials come under the publci health label. Let’s just outlaw “paid commercials of government” and let the media decide which “public service messages” they will air for “free”. Yeh, I know…the media is biased, but their losing share of the market so it may work. They now HAVE to be stingy with the freebees they dole out.

Just sayin’...

Lynn Bergman on November 13, 2010 at 12:57 pm
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