Ohio has launched what appears to be the biggest intervention in the private economy by a state government since at least the Great Depression, according to a USA TODAY review of historical data. The state is preparing new industrial parks and high-tech office buildings, loaning money and giving grants to businesses, and subsidizing clean energy, websites, nanotechnology and warehouses, among other things.
The state will spend $1.4 billion on economic development this year. Indiana, by contrast, will spend $37 million; Florida $11 million. California has 25 people working full-time on economic development. Ohio: more than 400.
Ohio’s attempt to revive its economy is a real-life case of how states act as a laboratory of democracy. This industrial state is testing a provocative economic question: Can government direct the economy into the future, or is that best done by a free market?
Mark Kvamme, Ohio’s director of development
For an alternative view, contrast Ohio’s approach to job creation with the strategies recommended by Michael Shuman, author of Going Local and The Small Mart Revolution. Here is a TED talk by Shuman, Director for Research and Economic Development for the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE).