Photos Reveal Michigan “Trade Delegation” to Europe “Exploring Growth Opportunities”—At Italian Art Museums

by Rob Smith

In the March 13th issue of the New York Times there is an article about the severe economic problems that face Italy. That country, like Michigan, has been in one of the deepest recessions on record. Unemployment in Italy last measured at 9.2 percent in March 2012—just about the same as Michigan’s record unemployment levels. Again, like Michigan, the Italian economy has experienced contraction as opposed to growth. Italy is the last place European leaders look to explore job creation and job growth opportunities and strategies. Italy is on the brink of financial collapse and a new leader, an economist, is hoping to keep the country from defaulting on its European and international loans.

Nonetheless, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Tweeted this morning that Michigan taxpayers are footing the bill to send a “trade delegation” to Europe to “build relationships” and “explore growth opportunities.” The delegation includes Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the head of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michael Finney. The delegation began its trip in Turin, Italy.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, a much-criticized public-funded job creation bureaucracy, is now headed by Michael Finney. Finney and Governor Rick Snyder worked together at Ann Arbor SPARK, one of a dozen Smartzone job creation entities spawned by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The Snyder/Finney claims of having created and retained over 12,000 jobs while at Ann Arbor SPARK have been questioned and refuted by multiple media sources, including the Detroit Free Press and the right-leaning Mackinac Center.

Photos from the Michigan Economic Development’s Facebook page show delegation members “building relationships” and “exploring growth” while chatting and snacking in the VIP lounge in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. In the top photo, above, Michael Finney (right) sits with Mark Kinsler, the MEDC’s VP, Business Attraction and International Business Development.

Other photos posted to the MEDC Facebook page yesterday show delegation members touring the city of Turin, and smiling for the taxpayers outside (middle photo) and inside the Turin Museum of Ancient Art (bottom photo).

The MEDC Facebook page urges visitors to: “Stay with us this week for daily photo updates of Governor Rick Snyder as he travels Europe with a delegation of state officials, local economic development agencies, counties and communities — all working together to thank companies for their commitment to our great state, remind them Michigan is more business friendly than ever, and that the quality of life we enjoy here is unmatched!”

To spend the next week watching Michigan’s Governor and his “trade delegation” spend tens of thousands of Michigan tax dollars touring Italy and Germany, “building relationships” and “exploring growth” at various European restaurants, hotels, tourist stops and museums, follow this link.

A report released in February by the University of Michigan’s National Poverty Center finds that the number of U.S. households living in extreme poverty more than doubled between 1996 and 2011. There are currently 1.46 million households in the U.S. whose members — mostly women and their children — live on less than $2 a day. Some 2.8 million children in the U.S. are starting life under these wretched conditions.

The number of Michigan children in high poverty could fill the seats of every first, second and third grade private and public classroom in the state. The Kids Count report, “Data Snapshot on High-Poverty Communities,” released on February 23rd reveals that 186,677 Michigan children are living in high poverty situations. According to the study, of the 83 counties, 32 had an area where children live in concentrated poverty. The study defined this as 30 percent of the population in households with income below the federal poverty level of $22,000 for a family of four.

Over the past 16 months Governor Snyder has been in office childhood poverty in Michigan has risen to 23 percent. It’s unclear how a junket to Europe, and trips to Italian museums for Michigan “trade delegation” members, including the head of the MEDC, will lead to job creation, or a significant reduction in poverty in Michigan. Then again, it has been unclear for quite some time how the MEDC creates jobs at all in exchange for the hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into the secretive, out-of-touch, insular organization. 

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