“This town blocked a Walmart — and it was a victory for economic liberty,” read the headline for a Tim Carney column at the Washington Examiner. Carney’s column describes a town in Missouri that decided not to dole out economic development favors for Walmart. “If you want to buy and develop property that exists, you can do it on your own dime,” Carney quotes the mayor as saying.
It seems that attitude may be present in a Jamestown, North Dakota, support over subsidies for big box retails. The city has been debating a controversial proposal to have the city purchase land for a developer that intends to bring in a big-box store (Menards, Home Depot or Lowes are the companies mentioned as possibilities). The developer also wants the city to pay $900,000 toward the project.
The plan has met with outspoken opposition, so the local chapter of the Chamber of Commerce decided to poll its membership to see how people feel about it. And, surprisingly, most members of the Chamber oppose doling out taxpayer subsidies to the developer:
Here are the questions and answers from the Chamber poll, courtesy of Jamestown Sun reporter Keith Norman:
* Should the city of Jamestown engage in retail economic development?
Yes 51 percent
No 35 percent
Need more info 14 percent
* Should public funds be used by the city of Jamestown to purchase land for retail real estate development?
Yes 30 percent
No 51 percent
Need more info 19 percent
I’m surprised at the level of opposition to the use of public funds. I’m also surprised at the narrow majority that supports local government involvement in economic development in general. And keep in mind, this is coming from an advocacy group that is in the business of economic development.
It would please me, as a conservative, to believe that there is a growing skepticism of government economic development efforts. I don’t that it’s the case, but this poll is a hopeful sign.