The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is funded solely by freedom-loving individuals and organizations that find value in its conviction of free-market principles. For this issue of IMPACT, we hear from Gil Harter (pictured here with his wife, Miriam).
MCPP: What’s your background?
Harter: I’m from Wisconsin originally, but moved to Midland when I accepted a job at Dow Chemical as a chemical engineer. I did that for three years, then moved to economic evaluations with the company. I was in the tax department, too. Even though I started out in chemicals, I furthered my education by taking five college courses in economics while I was at Dow. We’ve been in Midland for 41 years.
MCPP: What do you enjoy doing for recreation?
Harter: Playing tennis.
MCPP: You play tennis?
Harter: I think so! [Laughs.] I helped start the Midland Tennis Club before the Tennis Center was established. I was the treasurer for six years. We played at Northwood University and other parks around town before the tennis center was built. My aunt gave me a racket when I was 10 years old. I didn’t play for teams in high school or college, I just played for fun. My wife enjoys playing, too.
MCPP: What do you like about the Mackinac Center?
Harter: I believe in the free-enterprise system. I found out about the Mackinac Center 20 years ago or so. I enjoy giving to the organization because I believe in what they’re doing. I like to support worthy causes.
The Mackinac Center exposes a lot of what’s going on. That alone should get the attention of politicians. The Center reveals a lot of the sweetheart deals government makes with businesses and unions. I think about that dues skim. [The skimming of some $34 million in union “dues” from Michigan home-based care givers has stopped. At the time of this printing, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation continues to seek a refund of some of the illegal dues for its clients.] Once the truth was revealed, it made everyone involved look bad, and should have. What a terrible thing to take money from the most vulnerable people and funnel it into a union. Most of those people didn’t even know they had been roped into a union. It’s a shame how hard people had to work to end that.
I also appreciate the Mackinac Center’s principle regarding competition being a good thing, like competitive determined prices. I like the invisible hand of the free market. I also like charter schools and giving families choice in what type of education is the best for their children. I think it’s great how Jalen Rose has created a charter school to give kids in failing school districts a chance at a quality education.
The Mackinac Center is data-driven. Without the data, there’s nothing to base sound policies on.
MCPP: Do you have any interesting stories from your work at Dow Chemical?
Harter: Yes. I remember during the 1974 strike, there were around 90 maintenance people in that department that walked off the job. That department had a backlog of work, too, at the time. To keep work from stopping, about a dozen engineers replaced those who had walked off. They learned quickly to do maintenance work, and those engineers not only got all the work done, they began whittling away at the backlog of work. After five months, the strike ended.
MCPP: Why do you stay in Michigan?
Harter: I’ve lived in other parts of the country. I was in Miami for a few years, but couldn’t wait to get back to Michigan. I absolutely love the four seasons. It’s no fun to be in shorts and a t-shirt in the fall. I don’t mind taking a week vacation or so in the wintertime, but I like to be here at home most of the time.
MCPP: What policies bother you?
Harter: I don’t like the idea of card check. [Card check is a process where the secret ballot is taken away from workers. Union organizers can organize a worksite if a majority of workers sign cards.] That’s not democracy. That decision is not made at the poll. It’s no election at all. It opens itself up for workers to be intimidated into signing up for something they may not want to do.
MCPP: How would you like to leave your legacy?
Harter: I have three kids. I’d like for them to recognize to have responsibility for the rest of society. I’m very civic-minded. I belong to one of the Kiwanis clubs here in Midland and feel that giving to others is important.