For the economic development smile-a-day file

You may find this funny or possibly annoying or both. It’s a story in the Arkansas News that concludes there is political advantage to encourage Toyota to build its next auto plant in Arkansas (the New Brunswick of the south) over Texas (the Ontario of the south). Here’s the conclusion:

If Toyota builds its next plant in Texas, no one is added to its “political team.” I am not sure how that helps. (President Bush is on his way out.) If, on the other hand, they build the next plant in Marion, the company could count on having two more sympathetic U.S. senators, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, who could help them avoid any future trade friction.

The 2,100-acre super project site near Marion is a great location; the company’s executives have said so in the past. Toyota should add to its “team” in Washington by building its next plant in Arkansas.

Now, put aside the notion of a triple E Senate in Canada which might make this a bit more interesting in the Canadian context.

Think about the politics of this thing. Can you imagine any scenario in Atlantic Canada where a local writer (say Alec Bruce) would argue that there would be political advantage to encouraging Toyota to locate in, say, New Brunswick over Ontario.

That is why this makes the smile-a-day file. And that is why I prefer American economic development models. The Feds basically stay out of things (and they won’t lobby Toyota) except for the SBA and some trade stuff. I have never seen direct federal money in an ‘investment’ project (i.e. Toyota moves to the US). That means that states compete just on their own ability to serve up incentive packages. In Canada, all the big investment deals in Ontario have massive Federal dollars in them. I can’t say for sure about Atlantic Canada as the last massive deal was Michelin – decades ago (had federal dollars in).

Imagine that. Political advantage nationally to supporting economic development in Atlantic Canada.