Awarded Millions, Wind Turbine Company Defaults on State Loan

State gives very little information on companies it subsidizes

In 2009, Ventower Industries issued a press release with the headline, “Another ARRA Success Story – New Funds Mean More Jobs in Monroe.”

The news was that Ventower, which was supposed to make wind turbine towers and bases, had been given $2.5 million by the federal government under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or the "stimulus" package.

U.S. Congressmen John Dingell called it a “watershed moment.”

In 2010, the News Herald newspaper in Southgate called Ventower Industries “another successful project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” because it had received a $2.3 million grant and $1.2 million loan from the state of Michigan.

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Yet, five years later, the state has said little about the project, and those “success” claims remain unsubstantiated.

The only official information is a 2014 state report stating that as of Sept. 31, 2013, Great Lakes Towers, doing business as Ventower Industries, completed construction of a factory in Monroe to build commercial wind turbine towers. The only other information revealed by the one paragraph update was that the company was in default on the loan and had qualified for benefits offered by three other state programs.

An earlier 2009 Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) report had boasted that Ventower was expected to create 152 jobs.

James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said there are no state reports that give information on how many jobs Ventower Industries has created.

Ventower Vice President Scott Viciana didn’t return an email seeking comment.

Hohman said when evaluating how effective the MEDC's incentives are, people shouldn't have to contact companies to get information. That type of data should be provided by the MEDC.

“All the state is reporting is that, ‘We awarded them money.’ And that’s it,” Hohman said.

Hohman believes the MEDC should have to disclose how many jobs were actually created by companies receiving taxpayer subsidies, and how much money the state handed over for those jobs.

Mike Shore, spokesman for the MEDC, didn't return an email seeking comment.

The information blackout may lift a bit in the future if a recently enacted MEDC transparency law works as intended. House Bill 4480 received nearly unanimous votes in the House and Senate and was approved by Gov. Rick Snyder on Jan. 10. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Tom Leonard, R-Lansing. Kaylee Mead, a legislative aide for Leonard, said it requires the agency to make this kind of information “more accessible” through a more comprehensive annual report and periodic updates to an online database. Mead said the bill does not necessarily require that more information be included in the reports, however.

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See also:

A Bipartisan Disaster: Michigan 'Corporate Welfare' Program Rolls On

Three Cheers for Michigan House Democrats

MEDC Questioned About its Transparency

Pressure Mounting for MEDC Transparency

MEGA Failure: Job Projections From Michigan Tax Credit Program Rarely Came True

Projections vs. Reality - Should Politicians Make Job Creation Claims?



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