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The Economic Development Circus

Credit Houston Chronicle Business Reporter Loren Steffy with coining a brilliant phrase, "the economic development circus", in a brilliantly perceptive piece starring the Astros, Rockets, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and ... Apple (wait for the end):

Apparently, while I was gone last week, the circus came to town - the economic development circus, that is.

NBC Sports Group recently leased 32,000 square feet in the Houston Pavilions for a local studio. Like most companies looking to open an office in a new city, it arrived with its hand out. As the Chronicle's Nancy Sarnoff reported, NBC wanted $2 million in city and state incentives for its Comcast SportsNet Houston, a regional sports network that will broadcast Rockets and Astros games.

Even though the network had "Houston" in its name, NBC planned only a small operation here with the rest run from its offices in Stamford, Conn. Rockets and Astros officials asked the city if it could come up with some incentives that would persuade NBC to set up a local studio, Andy Icken, the city's chief development officer, told me.

As with any good circus, this one has three rings, and this is the first: a network wants to broadcast local games without a local studio, and team owners, no strangers to lapping at the public trough, convince the city to use taxpayers' dollars to do the teams' bidding.

The second ring of the circus comes at the state level. NBC wanted $1.2 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund, the taxpayer-funded candy store from which Gov. Rick Perry doles out corporate giveaways like Reese's Pieces.

See Steffy's entire piece for a full account of what happens in the 2nd and third rings of the circus. In short, Gov. Perry splashes the cash on the sadly needy Apple Inc., who made noises about expanding in Austin (& presumably elsewhere, as an alternative). Something is quite screwy here, where state and local governments are transferring funds to companies like Apple, who are sitting on one of the world's largest hoards of cash. It's a circus indeed, complete with its hall of mirrors.

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