Garden Variety Bureaucracy

In his first State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder touted the concept of “economic gardening.”  Economic gardening is a concept that envisions government assisting small businesses by providing various economic tools and incentives to encourage them to remain and expand in the state as opposed to attempting to lure larger out of state companies to locate in Michigan. While the concept of economic gardening may appeal to some, its implementation has a tough row to hoe as evidenced by the city of Detroit’s “garden permit.”

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Residents in Detroit who want to grow food on vacant city lots are frustrated by the city’s obstacles, as reported at Lee Gaddies summed up the frustration: “This goes back to governance, again. We have a broken government structure that designs processes that don’t fit the needs of the community. What we need are departments to partner with the stakeholders in the community, to design processes that function for the community.”

Detroit’s garden permit requirements include the prohibition of adding or removing soil and do not allow for basic gardening amenities such as the construction of rain barrels and compost bins. City residents also complain that permit requirements were made without their input.

Small businesses in the state, whether they be gardeners in Detroit or an auto parts supplier in Grand Rapids, do not need government-provided economic tools; rather they need government to get out of the way so they can succeed. Until state and local officials understand that “red tape” is strangling small businesses, we can expect to see little growth in that important segment of Michigan’s economy. The myriad of state and local government requirements make it difficult, time consuming and expensive to do business in the state.