Why the Motor City has so few plumbers
Editor’s note: A version of this appeared in the Detroit Free Press on Feb. 23, 2017 as a “letter to the editor.”
In his recent State of the City address, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan worried about a lack of workers in Detroit and said he wants to launch jobs programs to connect people to work. But there is an easier way for the city to help people find employment: Get out of the way.
In Detroit, dozens of occupations are licensed, which means people must go through extra regulatory steps and pay fees to the city.
Duggan mentioned that at Little Caesars Arena, there are 120 plumbers working, yet only 58 licensed plumbers in the city. That’s because, unlike the vast majority of cities in Michigan, Detroit requires plumbers to go through an annual license and registration process, complete documents for the city for every job they do, and follow a strict and expensive fee chart for every item they fix.
In other cities, someone who wants to work as a plumber must get a state license or work for a master plumbing. Detroit requires an expensive and unnecessary process that raises costs while serving no public benefit. If the city wants more jobs, hacking away at the regulatory structure is the place to start.