A drearily familiar story came briefly back to mind in today's Trib. The campus in Harvard in northern Illinois that Motorola opened in 1997 to make cellphones. and which had been closed since 2003, was sold to a Chinese investor.

Motorola played Illinois against Wisconsin against each other to bid up the subsidies it demanded before locating it -- surprise -- in the hometown of the company's founder. According to press accounts at the time, Illinois gave Motorola $30 million in state-funded road and infrastructure improvements, a $5 million investment tax credit and money for job-training assistance. The firm then shut it down after less than six years and shifted production to lower-cost facilities.

The lesson for the State of Illinois is one is still hasn't learned, as I noted in columns damning the folly of subsidies to Sears and ADM. The wise policy is not to try to help people by protecting jobs. Protecting jobs only protects the corporati who are better at extracting money from lawmakers than they are extracting profits from their businesses. 

The policy of state and federal governments should instead seek to protect people by helping people -- specifically, with job retraining programs, even relocation expenses so they can cope with the effects of vagrant companies.


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