Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Empty Promises; Our View; Mamtek Failure Indicts Missouri's Jobs Strategies; OPINION

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Empty Promises; Our View; Mamtek Failure Indicts Missouri's Jobs Strategies; OPINION

Article excerpt

There is a certain satisfaction in seeing Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filing criminal charges against Bruce Cole. He is the California wheeler-dealer responsible for leaving the city of Moberly, investors, and potentially taxpayers, on the hook for $39 million in revenue bonds that were floated to finance the failed Mamtek "sucralose" plant.

Mr. Cole, who allegedly skimmed hundreds of thousands of dollars off the Mamtek deal to rescue his under-water Beverly Hills mortgage, was arrested on Tuesday after Mr. Koster charged him with theft and securities fraud.

People in Moberly and elsewhere in Missouri deserve to see this story aired in court. Mr. Cole may be the only one charged, but he's not the only one who had a role in this epic economic development flop.

Mamtek didn't fail merely because the plan to manufacture a sugar substitute at multiple plants in Missouri and China was just sugar plum fairies dancing in Mr. Cole's head. It failed because it relied on an economic development strategy that has been proven over and over again to be a sham.

It failed because nobody, including Moberly officials and the state Department of Economic Development, did their homework. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, and Republican leaders including Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, were eager to back Mamtek when there was a photo opportunity to stand next to Mr. Cole and lip-sync the word "jobs." But nobody was very eager to do the due diligence that would have shown the deal to be bogus.

Mamtek failed because Missouri's economic development strategy is this: Listen to pitch from guys in suits. Give them money. Promise jobs. Say nothing when the jobs don't appear.

Mr. Nixon famously denied any responsibility for Mamtek despite the clear errors in judgment by his economic development staff. While it's true that no state funds ended up in Mr. Cole's hands, it's equally true that the state's imprimatur validated the deal. Taxpayers in Moberly were left holding the bag.

It's also true that the Republicans criticizing Mr. Nixon forget both their role in propping up Mr. Cole, and in creating a climate where business is free from the kind of regulation that could weed out bad actors in the eco-devo game. …

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