News Story

Governor, Corporate Welfare Advocates Boast That Phantom Pfizer Plant Produced Vaccines

Oops: They’ve promised to subsidize it, but facility won’t exist until 2025

A recent story in the Tulsa World, a daily newspaper in Oklahoma, ranked Michigan as having the second-best state for recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, the ranking was based on a certain false claim that is commonplace in the world of corporate welfare. It included in its statistics jobs that companies receiving pledges of government subsidies said they will create, but which have not yet come into being — and which experience suggests in many cases never will.

Counting these as actual jobs caused the Tulsa newspaper to falsely report, “Plus, with support from Good Jobs for Michigan, Pfizer built a drug manufacturing plant in Portage, Michigan, from where the company shipped the first doses of their COVID-19 vaccine.”

But Pfizer did not break ground on the subsidized project until March 2021. That was two months after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the new facility was already in operation and providing 450 new jobs. It was also three months after the company released its first shipment of the vaccine, in December 2020.

Good Jobs for Michigan is a corporate welfare scheme that delivers cash subsidies to a small number of businesses and developers selected by government officials. In 2018, officials approved giving $10.5 million to Pfizer to expand an existing plant in Portage in return for the pharmaceutical giant creating 450 new jobs.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stated in her January 2021 State of the State address, “You might not know, but Pfizer was the first business to utilize Good Jobs for Michigan. They built their sterile drug manufacturing plant and created 450 good-paying jobs in Portage. Passing this legislation will be good for our families, our businesses, and our economy. Let’s get it done.”

But buildings on the Kalamazoo campus did participate in distributing COVID vaccines, the one Whitmer mentioned did not yet exist when she made the claim.

In a related appeal to a local zoning board, Pfizer said on March 8, 2021, that it anticipated completing construction on the new facility in June 2023. Company officials have since said it would not be operational until 2025.

Yet many politicians and news agencies have reported that the Pfizer COVID vaccine is being produced in a plant that does not exist, and they credited Good Jobs for Michigan.

A Democratic politician, a TV station, a labor union, economic development bureaucracies and business trade groups are just some of those who have erroneously credited this corporate welfare program’s handouts as contributing to Pfizer’s COVID vaccine.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.