The director of the Michigan State Fair quit his job Friday to protest Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s decision to end state support for the 160-year-old event.
Steve Jenkins, 55, said he would become an advocate for saving the fair and preserving the fairgrounds at 8 Mile and Woodward in Detroit.
“I didn’t feel I could do that and criticize the governor as one of her appointees,” said Jenkins, who was named fair director in 2007.
He said he hoped to convince the Legislature that the fair, which has required about $3 million in state assistance over the past six years, including $350,000 last year, has generated $31 million over the same time in jobs, contracts and economic activity.
Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said the state has to make cuts in these difficult economic times.
“That property has value to lure investment and jobs to the city and the state,” she said. “State government can’t be all things to all people. The state fair has seldom been able to sustain itself without state support.”
On Friday afternoon, Granholm appointed former Ferndale Mayor Robert Porter as the new state fair manager.
If Granholm’s plan proceeds, Jenkins said he expects this summer’s fair to be the last on the Detroit grounds.
Jenkins said the fairgrounds’ year-round tenants — including the Joe Dumars Fieldhouse, the Little Caesars hockey program and a golf center — all plan to close Oct. 1 so the state can market the property.
“I don’t know who’s going to buy it in this economy,” Jenkins said, adding that even with all the year-round activities shut down, the state must spend between $300,000 and $500,000 a year for maintenance and security.
Boyd said the state departments of Management and Budget and Economic Development are in the process of determining the best use of the land.