Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Should you give a rich person money, in the hopes that he or she will then reward you with an even larger gift? It sounds risky. But many American localities are in effect taking this step by adopting favorable land use laws to try to lure job-generating businesses. From Plymouth, Massachusetts --- the location of the famous first Thanksgiving 398 years ago --- comes a story this week that the city has changed zoning laws and given real estate tax breaks to foster the construction of a movie studio complex, led by developer Plymouth Rock Studios. The city hopes to create a “Hollywood East” along the shores of Massachusetts Bay.
What first came to my mind was the short-lived “AutoWorld” theme park fostered by Flint, Michigan, in the 1980s in an attempt to bring new jobs and tourism to the once-great industrial auto city (you may remember AutoWorld being lampooned by Michael Moore). Governmental plans to generate jobs simply by offering land use and financial incentives usually don’t work well in the long run. If they did, every city would adopt them. But in this era of anxious local governments, we may see more cities taking such desperate gambles –- which almost always eventually make the budgets and the local economies even worse.
Returning to Plymouth’s gamble, it is an obvious criticism to look skeptically on the hope that movie-makers to flock to Plymouth simply because the city has helped subsidize a studio. Why? I might just be too warm in Plymouth. After all, doesn’t the city know that all movies are made in Canada?
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