by Scott McClallen
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spent at least $44,117 of taxpayer money on her European trip to Davos to speak at the World Economic Forum, according to documents obtained by The Center Square in response to its Freedom of Information Act request.
That includes $26,222 for hotels, $13,779 for travel, $4,000 in miscellaneous expenses, and $116.15 in meals, says a document from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. A separate FOIA request for the governor’s security costs is still pending.
Whitmer embarked on the trip to Norway and Switzerland to speak at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting on a panel about “The Return of Manufacturing.”
“The World Economic Forum is a unique opportunity for Michigan to connect with leaders to discuss bringing jobs to Michigan and promote the state’s efforts to elevate our mobility and sustainability initiatives,” Whitmer said in a statement. “We’re showing the world what we have to offer, demonstrating our leadership in cars, chips, and clean energy, and proving that the best manufacturing in the world happens right here in Michigan.”
Whitmer justified the spending by saying she was recruiting and seeking future investments for Michigan.
However, recent electric vehicle battery investments in Michigan have cost taxpayers more than $3.3 billion and counting, despite there only being 25,181 registered electric vehicles statewide.
Whitmer has championed trying to bring the electric vehicle supply chain to Michigan from China.
John Mozena, president of the Center for Economic Accountability, a nonprofit organization for transparent economic development policy, told The Center Square that “These sorts of international boondoggles are perfect evidence for the way that the real point of economic development programs isn’t creating jobs,” Mozena wrote in an email. “Rather, it’s to make voters believe that politicians are responsible for creating jobs.”
Mozena said Michigan taxpayers have subsidized the auto industry with billions of dollars since the mid-1990s. Since then, Michigan has lost 183,000 manufacturing jobs statewide.
“Michigan’s economic future isn’t in Davos,” Mozena said. “It’s in the garages and basements and kitchens and barns of the next generation of entrepreneurs, the people who have the potential to have their name be as familiar as Ford, Dodge, Kellogg, DuPont or Meijer to future generations of Michiganders. That’s where economic growth comes from. Governor Whitmer and her administration should be focusing on making Michigan a simpler, cheaper and easier place to start and grow a company rather than jet-setting around the world trying to find big companies willing to take billion-dollar bribes to come here.”
Whitmer’s five-day trip marks the first economic development visit to Europe under her administration. Whitmer was joined in Norway by Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Quentin L. Messer Jr. and other MEDC officials.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Gretchen Whitmer” by World Economic Forum. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.