MI plan for high-tech economy under fire

Critics question spending over $1 billion when budget isn't balanced. But won't investing in high revenue industry do more to balance budget than cutting services?

Michigan's governor is coming under fire for her high-tech business revitalization plan, reports mlive.com.

Questions are being raised about whether Michigan can afford Gov. Jennifer Granholm's $1 billion economic revitalization plan. The plan, dubbed the 21st Century Jobs Fund would allot millions of dollars to universities, independent researchers and entrepreneurs to encourage job growth in high-tech businesses. The plan is to shift Michigan's economy from manufacturing to high tech.

Critics wonder if the money would be better spent on balancing the state budget. The state is $940 million short this year and more than $2 billion in the red next year.

"I'm disappointed," said Mary Campbell, an Ann Arbor venture capitalist who sits on the 19-member Strategic Economic Investment and Commercialization (SEIC) Board that awards the grants.

"I think there are a lot of high-quality deals we can support that will lead to new jobs and companies we need in this state," she said.

State Sen. Alan Sanborn, R-Richmond, is investigating possible cronyism with last year's funding. He claims 71 percent of the $137 million awarded last year went to universities, their employees and those with connections to universities.
"We spent the money recklessly, we spent it irresponsibly," said Sanborn, who chairs the Senate's Economic Development and Regulatory Reform Committee. "Every day we're finding out something new."

The American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, which recommends projects for funding, said that last year there were 505 applicants.

"The process was done with absolute integrity," said spokesman Mike Shore of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which administers the program. "Every aspect was done in accordance with state statute."

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