Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Profile in courage

Congratulations to Sarasota County commissioners. They said no to crony capitalism. That doesn’t mean we’re anti-business. It means we don’t believe in unearned benefits.

  • Sarasota
  • Opinion
  • Share

It was a profile in courage.

Sarasota County taxpayers should be proud of their county commissioners. They showed remarkable courage when they said no to providing a taxpayer subsidy to help an out-of-state company relocate its headquarters and up to 180 jobs to Sarasota.

Predictably, the defenders of crony capitalism immediately began firing flaming arrows at Sarasota. 

Project Mulligan’s representative from Orlando, Rob Sitterley of Merit Advisors, was quoted in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune: “That sends a clear message that Sarasota is not open for business. The reputation is that Sarasota isn’t a major player in economic development. This vote says they don’t want to be a player.”

“That will be a black mark on Sarasota,” said University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith. 

“It’s protectionism,” said Paul Mason, an economist at the University of North Florida.

Let the Site Selector Club members say what they will and cross Sarasota County off their lists.

This region should be proud not to sell itself, its soul or its taxpayers on the basis of how much corporate welfare and crony capitalism it is willing to use as bribe money. 

With all due respect to Mark Huey, CEO of the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County, you hear it all of the time. To be a “player” in the economic development Elephant Hunting Game, you have to offer “incentives” to woo corporate relocations. 

And that club is OK with that. It has no qualms about using someone else’s money to bestow unearned benefits on businesses.

We always love to tell the story of the late Nobel economist Milton Friedman. When Forbes asked him whether it made sense for the state of Alabama to give $300 million in tax subsidies to persuade Mercedes-Benz to build a manufacturing plant near Tuscaloosa, Friedman responded: “Go ask the elderly widow on a fixed income down in Mobile how she feels about being taxed and using her tax dollars to help Mercedes-Benz.” That said it all.

And you hear about all of the high-paying jobs and economic spinoffs that Project Mulligan and others will bring.

But again, Friedman pricked the air out of that balloon when he said: The people who give these subsidies never think what else taxpayers would do with that $300 million. Who’s to say, Friedman said, that Alabamans would not create as much or more economic activity than the Mercedes plant if that money were left in their hands? Touche.

Professor Mason may call what the county commissioners did “protectionism.” But how is it morally right to take money from your existing taxpayers — businesses and individuals who have paid taxes here for decades and who have never received a dime in government subsidies — and give an unearned benefit to an out-of-towner? 

We are open for business in Sarasota County. And Sarasota Countians would welcome with open arms Project Mulligan. But on moral, defensible terms.

We want to compete and sell our community on our merits — on the merits of our quality of life, our culture, our business climate and community values. 

We are open for businesses and entrepreneurs, especially those who still believe in the American values of making it on your own.


Latest News