President Barack Obama is in Michigan today to promote the ground breaking for the LG Chem battery plant in Holland. The President is lauding the ground breaking as a sign that the Stimulus Package is working, and creating jobs. But at what cost?

Without question, Michigan NEEDS jobs. With unemployment in the state currently lingering around an astounding 14%, some would say that we need to do anything to bring jobs to Michigan. There are others, however, who disagree.

According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan taxpayers will write $100 Million in checks to the Korean battery maker. From the article:

Last week the the Michigan Economic Development Corp. upped the ante on a $100 million “refundable” business tax credit approved by the state House and Senate for a subsidiary of the South Korean battery maker LG Chem. The MEDC in effect converted the credit into an outright cash subsidy from Michigan taxpayers by granting the firm’s 120-acre plant site in Holland “renaissance zone” status for 15 years.

The legislation authorizing the credit, Senate Bill 466 sponsored by Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, was passed last year. This spring, the firm was also approved for a federal “stimulus” grant of $151 million for the plant, the cost of which is pegged by various sources at between $244 million and $303 million. Essentially, taxpayers are all but giving the Korean manufacturer a brand new factory.

The Mackinac Center isn’t the only one questioning the price tag on these jobs.

In an article published today by the Wall Street Journal, Congressional candidate Jay Riemersma (R- Holland) stated, “”This is one instance where you can see job creating coming from it (the stimulus), but again…at what cost?” Riemersma went on to add, “People don’t want government stimulus and government spending…In their mind we’re mortgaging their future and their grandchildren’s future.”

The Heritage Foundation makes the argument that Obama’s Stimulus Plan is a failure, and the LG Battery Plant is a prime example. According to the article:

“Specifically, this factory is being subsidized by $151 million of stimulus funds from an even larger $2 billion honey pot of stimulus money set aside for electric car battery investments. This one plant is expected to employ 300 workers. That works out to more than $500,000 per job created. $500,000 per job. This plant, in a nutshell, explains why the President’s stimulus plan has been an objective failure.

In plain English, does it really make sense to pay 100x the annual salary of a new job? That’s assuming that the average employee would make $50,000 per year, which I suspect is unlikely. At what point do we say, “Gee, we probably shouldn’t be spending $100 to make $1?” It just doesn’t make sense.

$500,000 per job? That makes about as much sense as The Michigan Film Tax Credit, which is supported by Michigan State Representative Bill Huizenga (R-Holland), another Congressional candidate for Michigan’s 2nd District seat. The Film Incentive is another attempt by government to buy jobs for Michigan, and another example that begs the question of when is the price for new jobs too high? The Film Incentive grants ridiculous amounts of money to filmmakers who shoot in Michigan. To learn more, check out this video.

Rather than buying jobs for Michigan, we should be focusing on repealing punitive businesses taxes, removing cumbersome regulations, and making Michigan more attractive to business in a way that is sustainable and beneficial to the employer, the employee, and the state.

It’s time to elect officials who get the idea that wasting money is a bad thing. We need officials who are ready to do the hard work it will take to convince businesses to invest in Michigan. Officials who understand that the key to long-term, sustained economic growth lies in fixing the root of the problem: our tax code and business regulations.

People like Jay Riemersma for Congress, Pete Hoekstra for Governor, and Jon Bumstead for the 100th District State Representative.

These are the men I’m supporting this August 3rd. I hope you’ll get out and do the same. It’s time to fix the problem.


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In my little town of Hart, MI, you can always find something new. Being a Realtor here, and having lived here for 15 years, I don’t know how I didn’t know about the Starting Block and the folks that are doing some amazing things over on Industrial Park Drive.

The Starting Block in Hart, MI

The Starting Block is a kitchen incubator and entrepreneurial center. It is a nonprofit, regional economic development organization committed to small business development initiatives. The Starting Block helps entrepreneurs in an 8 county region from Manistee to Holland start and/or expand their food-related business at reasonable rentals without the initial investment or costly facilities and equipment.

OK, I borrowed most of that last paragraph from their brochure. Here’s my take on what Jane, Jim, and Ron are really up to over there:

AWESOMENESS!!!

With the help of The Starting Block, over 25 entrepreneurs have taken an idea, and turned it into a business venture over the last four years. The majority of these are food processing ventures, like Good Life Granola, Randy’s Granola, Wee Bee Jammin’ fruit jams, and a myriad of other products, ranging from dry spice mixes to meat stuffed pasta shells.

The Starting Block starts out by helping an individual with an idea to develop a label, and get it approved. Once the label is approved, the Starting Block has a large common kitchen with industrial mixers, convection ovens, stoves, and more.

They’ve even brought in packaging equipment. A small business owner can come up with an idea, apply for USDA and MDA approval, prepare the product, package the product, and even store the product all on site. Most importantly, since The Starting Block is a nonprofit organization, the costs to do so are very low.

The Kitchen at The Starting BlockYou can use the kitchen, and all the equipment, for $10-15/hour. Dry storage runs $10/month for a pallet, and cold storage runs just $1.50/cubic foot. This is incredibly low overhead for a start-up business, and a great way for a fledgling company to get its feet under it and get running. Oh, and if you need a special piece of equipment, just ask Ron, he’ll probably be able to find it for you.

The kitchen is also available to caterers, church, school, and civic groups.

In addition to the kitchen incubator side of the house, The Starting Block also leases office space to start-up businesses. Summit Laboratories is one company that leases space on site. They’re just getting up and running, and recently received accreditation that will allow them to provide food processing testing for local farmers this season.

Office space starts at an incredibly low price of just $110/month for a 90 square foot office. It even includes phone and internet access. Need something a little bigger? You can get 225 square feet for just $275/month!

In addition to all this, The Starting Block provides its users with countless other resources, including product development, ingredient sourcing, nutritional analysis, marketing strategies, a resource library, computers and internet access, and so much more.

The Staff at The Starting Block

The Starting Block Staff

The Starting Block is staffed by Ron Steiner, Jim Henley, and Jane Dosemagen. These three folks wear a lot of hats, and are ready to help you take your idea for business to the next level. Jane was extremely helpful in giving me a tour today, and I thank her for helping me gather this information.

Small businesses are vital to rebuilding our economy, and the gang at The Starting Block are providing an invaluable service to Hart, Oceana County, and West Michigan.

To learn more about The Starting Block, visit http://www.startingblock.biz or stop by. The Starting Block is located at 1535 Industrial Park Drive, just off of Polk Road in Hart.

*Photos courtesy of The Starting Block and http://www.startingblock.biz and used with permission.

Bank OwnedFirst time home buyer activity is on the rise in Oceana County. A significant reason for this is the number of bank owned properties currently for sale in the Hart, Shelby, New Era, and Pentwater areas. Bank owned properties, often referred to as foreclosures, are often sold well below market value, and create unique opportunities for first time home buyers.

I recently had the pleasure of writing an accepted offer for a young engaged couple from Hart, MI. They are getting married this summer, and wanted to start looking for a home now. They have decent credit, but relatively low income, and the majority of what they could afford consisted of manufactured housing, which they hoped to avoid if at all possible.

I sent them to one of my preferred lenders, and had them prequalified. Prequalification is vital when attempting to purchase a bank owned home. Once the lender had them preapproved and through underwriting, and we had established a monthly payment that was affordable and comfortable for them, I began my search in earnest.

I was looking for a home that would meet their needs, and their budget of about $60,000. I ran searches daily, as I knew that when the right one came up, it wouldn’t last wrong. I searched for about three weeks, in which time we looked at a handful of bank owned properties. The majority of these properties were going to require too much work to make them livable, so I continued to search.

Last week, I found a listing that was just unbelievable. It was a bank owned property in New Era, listed for $60,000. I was familiar with the home, and the location was perfect for what my buyers were looking for. I made a phone call, and told my clients that we needed to act fast, and see the home that night.

My buyers rearranged their schedules, and we went to see the home. The curb appeal was great. The home was less than ten years old, and was in great shape. The yard was just over an acre, and even had privacy fence built along the neighbor’s property line. This was a three bedroom home with a two car attached garage, and 1300 square feet of clean, well kept living space.

Coldwell Banker Sold SignMy buyers were instantly excited, and quite frankly, so was I. This was exactly what we had been praying to find, and we immediately submitted a full price offer. Since I already had them preapproved and through underwriting, our offer was solid and attractive. As it turned out, there was another offer made the same day, so we submitted an addendum offering to bump our price by $1100.

Earlier this week, I found out that that little bump sealed the deal. Our offer was accepted, and this previously bank owned home will soon be owned by two wonderful people. When they return from their honeymoon, they’ll be coming home to a home that they own. They also qualify for $6110 in federal tax credit from the 2009 Federal First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit Program. I couldn’t be happier for them.

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