Editorial: Government shouldn’t be a competitor

Over the years this newspaper has held firm on one tenet: Government has no business competing with private enterprise.
We have watched this issue come up in different forms over the years and it appears we’re seeing it return like Lazarus rising from the dead.
In last week’s Ely Echo, a story detailed how the Ely Recreation Complex was looking to acquire the former Minnesota State Revenue building in the Ely Business Park.
We have no problem with this as long as it is done without governmental involvement, specifically the city of Ely. Why? Because it will compete with private enterprise. A business owner who has paid taxes and employs people should not have to compete with a government. Period.
When this issue came up several years ago, we pointed out that Studio North is already operating a fitness center. We have a locally owned business where people can go to work out. We don’t need government competing with that business.
But that is just what is happening here. The city of Ely is being asked to apparently purchase the building from the state and then sell it to the non-profit group. That’s just wrong.
City tax dollars should be used to provide services like police, fire, streets and utilities. It may seem to those proposing this project that it would be easier or more convenient to have the city as part of the deal. But that should never be justification for competing with private enterprise. We would apply this to the radio station discussions in the recent past as well. Advertising is one of the most common ways we see where government has overstepped its bounds. That’s why we scrutinize any deals that involved tax dollars.
Now, if this recreation project can find a way to become a reality without competing with private enterprise, let’s make it happen. But let’s do so on a level playing field.
Owning a business in today’s post-pandemic world is beyond difficult. Finding reliable employees, skyrocketing fuel costs and ever increasing taxes make it impossible at times to finish each year in the black.
We talk to business owners every day. We hear their concerns, their fears and the realization that the good old days have got up and left.
Instead of competing with local businesses, we need to find ways to support them, from shopping in their store, buying their services and making sure government doesn’t put them out of business.