Free advertising (for the politically correct)

The e-mail was from Americans for Prosperity, and perhaps it came across as a little shrill. But interim Maryland AFP director Nick Loffer brought up a pretty good point:

Governor O’Malley is spending your tax dollars on professionally produced TV ads in a new PR stunt to mask Maryland’s dreadful business climate.  Outrageous!  These government TV ads promote handpicked businesses and their products to convince job creators to pick Maryland without your consent!

You shouldn’t be forced by your government to promote any company period! It’s wrong, unfair, and abandons America’s free market economy! (All emphasis in original.)

What struck me about this, though, were the immaculately politically correct companies selected for this round:

B’More Organic 

Jennifer and Andrew Buerger traveled to Iceland in 2009 to help raise funds for Jodi’s Climb for Hope, a nonprofit honoring Andrew’s sister. Their mountain climbing expedition, led by Maryland’s Earth Treks, was a life changing journey. Jennifer and Andrew also discovered a healthy, nutritious Icelandic yogurt and launched B’More Organic, a business built around a 100% organic, fat-free, gluten-free, low-lactose yogurt smoothie that packs 30 grams of protein. You can find B’more Organics delicious yogurt smoothies in other small Maryland businesses like Mom’s Markets, Roots Markets, Earth Treks Climbing Centers and Wegmans. Good for you, Good for Maryland, Good for the Planet!

Clean Currents

People across Maryland are signing up for wind power with Clean Currents. Co-founded in 2005 by Gary Skulnik, Clean Currents has helped 10,000 homes and 3,000 businesses make the switch to wind power in the Maryland region. Clean Currents provides wind power to Maryland businesses like Honest Tea, Woodberry Kitchen and Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company. A certified B-Corporation, Clean Currents is also growing the next sustainable energy generation with community partners like Baltimore’s Midtown Academy. It’s easy to switch to Clean Currents clean energy, there are no added fees, no equipment to install, just good clean energy. Good for you, Good for Maryland, Good for the Planet.

Apples & Oranges Fresh Market

Meet new neighbor, Apples and Oranges Fresh Market – a fresh market for a fresh start towards healthy eating and a better quality of life. A full service grocery store committed to providing nutritious and delicious food options for the community of East Baltimore, Eric and Michele Speaks-March, opened Apples & Oranges in March 2013. Stocking their neighborhood market with garden-fresh produce, fresh meat and dairy products, and offering customers recipes, nutrition information and healthy eating tips, this local Maryland business is clearly invested in a future that is Good for You, Good for Maryland and Good for the Planet.

If so inclined I might just have to look at the political leanings of those in charge of the businesses, but for this purpose the fact that all of them are deemed “good for you, good for Maryland, good for the planet” is good enough to deserve scrutiny.

If skyr (the Icelandic yogurt referred to in the first blurb) has a market here in the U.S. then it will be found. Why should Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown help them with a promotional spot? The same holds true for Clean Currents and Apples & Oranges, as both could be considered niche businesses. Clean Currents is essentially an electrical service broker, selling wind-produced electricity at a slight premium over conventional rates (perhaps $2 a month, depending on usage) while Apples & Oranges is a food store which opened in an area termed a “food desert,” defined as a neighborhood where few healthy food items are available. (To bolster that narrative, it’s located across from a McDonald’s.)

Obviously I understand the idea of a business being a political prop – over the years, politicians of all stripes have attended the ribbon-cuttings, made campaign appearances at particular business locations, and so forth. Democrats and Republicans here and everywhere else have “their” businesses they lean on for various functions – as an example, I’ve attended many a meeting at Adam’s Ribs in Fruitland because it’s considered a Republican- and TEA Party-friendly establishment so we patronize them. Conversely, Seacrets in Ocean City tends to be the preferred location for fundraisers for Democratic State Senator Jim Mathias so one could infer they’re backers of his. The same was true of Main Roots Coffee for Democrat Jim Ireton in the recent Salisbury mayoral campaign.

The point of the AFP criticism lies in the “MaryLand of Opportunity” campaign, which belies the actual conditions encountered by most small businesses which don’t receive the break of state endorsement:

Governor O’Malley and Annapolis should be focusing on making Maryland the best place to do business by reforming our business climate, not masking the problem by wasting more of your tax dollars.  Only through free market reforms can Maryland’s reputation as being flyover country for businesses and families that are choosing states with brighter economic outlooks like Texas and Virginia be erased.

With the state’s priority of pushing organic dairy products, wind-produced electricity, and produce markets in inner-city neighborhoods, one has to infer that a startup in the oil services industry, a gun shop, or a Christian-themed reception hall won’t be getting state help anytime soon. Yet they produce jobs, too, and eliminating the corporate tax and keeping state spending in line would help all of these businesses, not just the chosen few picked as the most politically correct.

Oh, and just to be nitpicky – I don’t consider Wegmans as a small Maryland business that sells skyr since it’s a New York-based regional supermarket chain. And the Clean Currents energy is not available “across Maryland” since I actually put my zip code in to check rates and it said their service wasn’t available here. So I used Annapolis instead. Typical “One Maryland” garbage.