If the animals at Saginaw Childrens Zoo could talk, they would agree with tens of thousands of smiling kids that the zoos many new educational exhibits and attractions are a lot of fun.
The animals might also say that privatizationthe transfer of government-owned assets to the private sectoris the reason for the zoos recent success and the better care and feeding they now enjoy.
Animals cant talk, of course, but visitors and employees alike are amazed at the zoos transition from a neglected, city-owned facility to a privatized powerhouse that draws eager families from across the state. How did it happen?
In 1996, Saginaw officials turned over the ailing zoo to a private, nonprofit association. Freed from city bureaucracy and politics, the zoos new, private management raised $2 million in private gifts to help hire seven more full-time workers, raise their wages, add 50 new animals, and improve the animals medical care and food preparation facilities.
As a result, paid annual attendance has jumped by more than 30,000, helping ensure the zoos self-sufficiency next year, when its subsidies end.
Saginaw Zoos success shows that privatization done right can lead to improved services, better jobs, and happy children.
For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.