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Government has limits in job creation

With the election approaching, we are sure to hear candidates talking about jobs plans and ways they want to grow the economy.

There’s no argument jobs are needed in our country. While conditions seemed to have been improving over the last decade, there were still millions of Americans out of work and recent situations have only exacerbated the situation.

Candidates on every level and from every political party are going to be discussing the need for job creation. Some may even talk numbers, telling voters they have plans to create so many jobs if they are elected.

That’s all well and good. As I said, we definitely need jobs. There’s a problem with that, though, and it should be discussed as we all consider whose name we are going to select on our ballots.

There are few situations where government officials can directly create jobs.

Governments can hire individuals to work within their employment structure. For example, local law enforcement, office staff and others who will work for a municipality, county or state. Governments also can establish new positions if officials see a need for a particular focus not currently on the books. Such would be the case if a city were to establish its own economic development department or even a municipal tourism bureau.

Those are all public employees, and while they are jobs, and should be appreciated, they are probably not the kind most people think about when politicians promise job creation.

The majority of jobs come from business creation and growth. Whether it’s a large manufacturing facility, large retail outlet, an office setting or a small-town shop, those are the workplaces most employed Americans go to on a daily basis. The number of employees is determined not by politicians, but by the needs and resources of the business.

Government can have a role in job creation, but it’s limited. Government can help to market an area for development, as well as provide incentive programs to try and lure a business to that area. A city, for example, can contribute to a project by offering tax discounts and promises of utility upgrades in the hope a business will establish a location on the community.

Governments can streamline the licensing and zoning process, which stipulate fees for operation and specific areas of a community a business can locate.

States can offer similar arrangements by building roads, offering grants or loans to assist a business in getting on its feet, or by changing the tax structure.

Just because these incentive programs exist, it doesn’t mean a business has to bite, and if they do, there is little government can do to dictate how many people a business employs.

Government has its own impact on the economy. Changes in the economy can then influence decisions by a business. However, if the government had as much control over job creation as politicians like to say, do you really think there would be so much unemployment in our country? If it was really so simple, I would think everyone would have a job.

We’re going to hear many promises in the coming weeks. Politicians make promises in an attempt to get your vote. It’s up to each of us who plans to participate in the coming election to look beyond the rhetoric and educate ourselves on government’s role in our society.

They can try and promise us the moon and the stars. What will we actually be left with once they are in office?

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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