Let’s point some fingers:
Louisville and the rest of Kentucky lost out on a major new employer because the Kentucky Pharmacy Board flat out failed to move on a regulation that would have made it possible for Medco Health Solutions Inc. to bring 1,300 jobs to the city. Instead, those jobs are going to Indiana, despite the fact that Kentucky’s incentive package was better ($30 million vs. $18.5 million). Pharmacy Board Executive Director Mike Burleson, according to the C-J, “didn’t realize how fast Medco needed the board to act.”
Burleson, appointed to his position in 2004 by Gov. Ernie Fletcher, told the C-J he wanted to protect the safety of patients. That was an extremely weak excuse, in the face of evidence to the contrary, for Kentucky’s slow pace in changing regulations that would have permitted Medco to operate here. Indiana’s board made the changes quickly without controversy.
Fletcher deserves some blame here, too. While Indiana’s Mitch Daniels was personally involved in negotiating with the company, Fletcher never talked with company officials. Expect more evidence of Fletcher gubernatorial incompetence to be made public, given that Fletcher spent the last year of his term fighting for his political life.
The Medco efforts by Kentucky economic development officials, it seems, were exemplary. It was an opportunity that doesn’t come along often, and Kentucky blew it, after a year’s effort, because of the incompetent actions of the Pharmacy Board.
Steve Beshear’s economic development message, during the campaign, was that too many incentives were being given to out-of-state companies, that the state needs to develop more in-state companies. That’s not the right solution, either. Beshear needs to make sure that this kind of mistake doesn’t happen during his watch. It’s a leadership issue. Daniels is a better leader than Fletcher. Indiana won. Kentucky lost. The contest was more important than any college rivalry.
Let’s hope Beshear replaces Burleson as E.D. of the Pharmacy Board, and insists that state government agencies get with the economic development program. When mistakes of this magnitude occur, heads must roll.