At a time when the Michigan Economic Development Corporation is saying it is being unfairly criticized, its staffers are among the best paid in the state.
According to information from a Freedom of Information Act request, the MEDC has 31 employees making $100,000 or more. The MEDC has 351 positions.
Greg Main, president and CEO of the MEDC, had the top salary, at $200,000. Debra Dansby, the chief operating officer, had the second-highest salary, at $150,000.
"The MEDC was structured to incorporate the best and brightest from the private sector and the state's most experienced civil servants in order to better serve the business community with employees paid from either state and non-state funds," wrote MEDC Spokeswoman Bridget Beckman in an e-mail. "With respect to state employees, MEDC is one of the "oldest" agencies for average years of service compared to others. ... it's a matter of perspective. Ours is that we present a unique advantage to Michigan's business community and our structure has become a model for other economic development agencies."
It hasn't been a banner year for the MEDC. A convicted embezzler was approved for a tax credit and had it revoked once the office learned of his background. RASCO CEO Richard Short was on parole after being convicted and serving two years in prison for financial fraud when his tax credit was approved by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority. Short's company never received any money from the state.
Main offered to resign after the RASCO incident, but Gov. Jennifer Granholm would not accept his resignation.
Then in April, State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, met with the state Auditor General after a critical audit of the MEDC. McMillin said MEGA may have doled out an estimated $150 million in tax credits erroneously in the last five years due to lack of oversight.
The MEDC sent out a letter stating it was "deeply concerned" about "unwarranted criticism."
The state's flagship economic development program was started in 1999, when the state's unemployment rate was 4.0 percent. Over the years, the state's unemployment rate has steadily climbed, reaching 12.8 percent in May of this year.
"The MEDC has presided over the worst collapse of Michigan's economic fortunes in its history," said Michael LaFaive, director of the Mackinac Center's Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative. "It should be embarrassed for that alone. At the end of the day, it is just another expensive organ of state government."