From John Mallamo of Bel Air:
Mr. Chris Streett, spokesman for the Harford County Economic Development Advisory Board recently delivered as elegant a pleading for the Board’s activities and its program as ever I have read, anywhere. It was a fine letter, very polished and professionally done. I am a bit embarrassed to say though, that the missive while long on eloquence was short on substance. It did not provide sufficient information required to make an objective decision on the merits of its claims.
The description of a new way of thinking does not really bring us into the present. Quite the contrary it is a throwback to the past. The approach proposed is a derivative of classic Keynesian economics, and an extension of President Lyndon Johnson’s great society economic programs configured for the private business sector. It is uncanny that the more things change the more they look like things that have been tried in the past. Sadly, not all of those efforts were successful, and it would be foolish to expect that they would work now. As a very prominent politician once observed Socialism is a great system until you run out of other peoples money to spend.
Harford County certainly does need to be competitive when seeking to attract new business. Harford County needs to let interested business know that we treat our residents with respect. That our government is open, forthright and honest with its residents. It meets their needs and requirements. Its policies promote legitimate enterprise. Businesses moving must know that they will be treated no differently than those that have been here much longer. Monetary incentives will not entice business, when they know that policies are not fair to everybody equally. Business expects to move to a location where the government is based on good governance, effective government and efficient operations.
Certainly it is costly to do business in Maryland. Interestingly, it costs as much for old businesses to do business in Harford County as it would for a business moving in. Yet some of our businesses have been here for years, decades even. It is no less expensive for our residents. State taxes are high, some of the highest in the country. If you want to pursue a new way of thinking, take a message to Annapolis. Tell the Governor and the General Assembly that the new ways they think of to raise taxes annually and their policies are killing our chance to attract business. Harford County Real and Personal property taxes are high, too, some of the highest in the State. Tell the County Executive to find a way to reduce those taxes. The County Executive and the County Council have already shown that they can do that. They can do it again. Business like assurance and certainty that taxes will remain low. That is what they use to determine their cost of doing business and their bottom line.
Regardless of where the money for incentives originates, it comes from tax dollars. The Federal government does not generate enough money from any its programs to fund its incentive programs. The State does not generate enough money from any of its operations to fund its incentive programs. Harford County assuredly has to raise taxes and even that is no guarantee that incentive programs can be funded. In reality money for incentive programs originates from wallets of every resident in Harford County. That contributes to the tax rate that affects the bottom line of any business new or old in Harford County.
If you truly believe that monetary incentives are a pillar of any program necessary to attract new business, then here is a suggestion. You and all the other members of the corporate community who decide who should get those incentives now, form an investor group. Use your own private funds to underwrite those incentive programs. Distribute them as you determine best meets your requirements. Call me if you find something that is truly interesting, I and probably other Harford County residents may invest with you. That is what capitalism, the pillar of one of the greatest economic engines in the world, the American economy, is all about. People put up their own money, and get a return on investment. Using government money to fund private ventures is called Socialism. Many of the countries in the European Union are discovering that Socialism as an economic policy is severely limited. Why should we believe that it will work better here?
It certainly were a fine letter. Very polished and professionally done.