Does ‘True Success’ for Michigan Business Mean Government Handouts?

Step 1: Sen. Debbie Stabenow introduces you to state corporate welfare agency

Gov. Rick Snyder called a startup food cart maker a “true Michigan success story” on Sept. 27 when he attended the firm’s ribbon-cutting ceremony in Walker, according to the news site MLive.

MLive reports, “It began with U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow” introducing the owner to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The MEDC then approved a $200,000 grant to the company, which was launched in 2016.

ForTheRecord states: Michigan is indeed filled with small businesses that are success stories. But hardly any of them begin with a politician introducing an entrepreneur to a corporate welfare agency.

In the case of the particular handout program involved in this grant, just 73 companies benefited in 2016. According to one very broad definition used by the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are 856,682 small businesses in Michigan.

The reality is that many of them have to overcome obstacles imposed by government regulations.

Consider a retail food cart operator who wants to operate in the city of Kalamazoo.

The startup would first have to pay $500 to get a license. The city government limits these to just 10 a year, so few ever get that far. The business owner who decides to set up shop on private property, such as a parking lot, will need a permit for that, too.

Food trucks are another popular mobile meal vendor, but in Kalamazoo, the city prohibits them from doing business within 150 feet of an existing brick-and-mortar restaurant. And the food truck may not operate within 500 feet of any fair or festival unless the vendor has first obtained permission from the event sponsor.

“There are so many government regulations, so many things that have to happen today to start a business, it is harder and harder to be that success story,” said Amanda Fisher, assistant state director for the Michigan chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.

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Some institutions of higher education have cracked down on free speech. Even in Michigan, universities have speech codes that restrict students’ speech, campus groups have prevented speakers from delivering talks and administrators have stopped individuals from handing out certain literature.

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