Eliminate the MAGIC Fund

Jeff Fox, Minot

It has served its purpose. Perhaps the time has come to terminate the program.

It was 1990 and the state and local economies were in a state of decline. Our youth were migrating out of the area, out of the state. Jobs were hard to find. Businesses could find no value in locating in Minot.

So the idea was hatched to implement a 1 percent sales tax in the city of Minot and the MAGIC Fund was born. Since then, more than $33 million has been poured into various projects across the city and local region (as of 2012). The goal was to attract businesses and new jobs, and some might say relatively low paying jobs, to the city and surrounding cities. The pitch was come to Minot and you’ll find a highly motivated, highly educated workforce that is willing to work for little reward.

Of course, even with low paying jobs, the program has had a positive impact on the community over the years and has had a number of successes.

But there have been a significant number of failures as well where it seems that millions of taxpayer dollars were handed out in the hopes that they would stay in the community. But rather than staying and multiplying in returned dividends, they simply left the region. Companies such as Choice Hotels, Sykes, MTI Telemark, Medvision, WebSmart all came with their hands out, collected the cash and walked away never to return. Even one of the best MAGIC Fund success stories, ING, is slowly and quietly looking for an exit with our cash in their pocket.

The fact of the matter is that there’s no longer a reason in Minot, or in the entire state for that matter, to entice new jobs, particularly relatively low-paying jobs, with the promise of free or cheap money. New companies are pouring in bringing with them hundreds of open high paying jobs.

That point was just highlighted last week when the MAGIC Fund Committee agreed to grant extensions to the requirement that two local businesses prove that they added additional jobs to their payrolls.

The problem is not that those businesses aren’t willing to add the new jobs. They’ve tried, but there is just too much competition for employees right now.

So back to my opening statement the MAGIC Fund has served its purpose. Jobs are plentiful. Businesses are moving to Minot and the surrounding region faster than anyone could have imagined way back then in 1990.

Perhaps the time has come to terminate the program and give Minot shoppers a 1 percent break.