Here's an interesting column from the Boston Herald that raises a good question: What role should state governments play in supporting and encouraging business growth? The column, by Jim Stergios, executive director of Pioneer Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, editorializes on a proposal by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Sal DiMasi to invest a billion dollars in the state's biotech industry. Stergios points out that there are good things about the proposal, like funding basic research, but he adds:
We all want to attract and grow biotech companies. But why focus solely on biotech, which employs 30,000 people statewide, over other industries? Why not focus on financial services, which employs 180,000, or precision plastics, a large employer in Worcester and Springfield? Even better, why not focus on the small business sector as a whole, which creates many times more jobs than biotech. Those jobs start people up the economic ladder - and stay in Massachusetts. The only way to grow and retain jobs and broad prosperity is to improve the business climate by addressing areas of competitive disadvantage like unemployment insurance, permitting, health care and energy costs. Massachusetts has the nation's highest unemployment insurance rates, commercial rents are sky high and the permitting process - though improving - is onerous.This makes sense. The first priority should be to create a business climate that favors growth and encourages entrepreneurs -- and not just those with political connections whose business plans might not otherwise get private funding.