Mitch Albom's 'Single-Industry' Blunder

There's much more to Michigan's economy than autos

Mitch Albom. Image via MitchAlbom.com.

Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom added this final line to a recent column defending $500 million taxpayer dollars that Michigan's state government has distributed to film producers since 2008: “I'll just say what I said when we proposed it as a way out of our single-industry economic doldrums. You hate it? Fine. What's your great idea?”

ForTheRecord says: Albom parroted a recurring media myth that Michigan’s economy revolves around a “single industry.”

From 2000 to 2009, Michigan lost 805,000 jobs, of which 219,000 were “transportation equipment manufacturing” jobs.

Even when including “intermediate” auto jobs — those for support, parts, and dealerships — auto employment in Michigan is 11.2 percent of total employment, according to the Center for Automotive Research.

Michigan's economy is too big for the government to pick the industries that will prove to be “winners.” It's better to make this state attractive to all job-creating entrepreneurs, with low taxes and reasonable regulations. Politicians granting special favors to a particular industry at the expense of all other Michigan job providers has never been a “great idea.”

In 2008, there were 1,663 full-time “motion picture and video production jobs” in this state. Five years and nearly $500 million taxpayer dollars later, the number had fallen to 1,561.

There currently are 4.4 million jobs in Michigan. Every three months around 200,000 of those jobs disappear; in good times slightly more than that are produced. Where those new jobs come from is something no economic central planner can predict.