Thursday, October 20, 2011

killing jobs in the name of creating jobs

How do I know that this 2.5 million dollar government investment in the economy is counter productive? Let's consider:
“This will definitely turn [Greenport and the county] into a destination market,” said Harbalwant Singh, developer and owner of the property. Greenport Crossings’ first phase got underway Monday; it includes the construction of a Mobil gas station, a convenience store and an A&W Root Beer Restaurant with its own small store. The cost of this phase is $2.5 million dollars, and is expected to create 15 full-time jobs as soon as it is completed in the spring. 
So, an A&W Root Beer Restaurant is what Columbia County needs? We need it so badly that the government has to help it exist?

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Will an A&W Root Beer Restaurant make the county more or less attractive to second home buyers from New York City?

2. What is the number one industry in Columbia County?

3. What else could you have done with 2.5 million dollars?

4. At $166,000 per job, is this a good deal even in the limited frame of the development itself?

What about an frozen food processing plant that could help local agriculture? Agriculture, unlike an A&W Root Beer Restaurant, is compatible with our main industry, second home owning.

What about preserving open space and creating more Hudson River access? While not producing jobs directly, something like that would encourage more second home owners to believe in the county long term. The home owners would then invest more than 2.5 million in the economy and create more than 15 jobs.

What about, instead of making something new and ugly, we preserve something beautiful and old, like an old factory building in Hudson? People from the city would like to see old beautiful things, not an A&W Root Beer Restaurant.

How about instead of an A&W Root Beer Restaurant we invest in education, so people not only come on the weekend but stay all week and keep their kids here? Or art: would people from the city like the area better if there were another art institution to add to the list we already have?

Why is it that our own local politicians do not understand our own economy? We are an agricultural and tourism (including second home owners) economy. Those two industries go well together. An A&W Root Beer Restaurant contributes nothing to critical mass in agriculture or open space and second home owning destination purchasing.

In fact, by spending 2.5 million in this way the county is KILLING more than 15 jobs by driving some unknown number of second home owners to SOME OTHER PLACE like Berkshire Massachusetts.

This flawed vision is a boon for the county. Only thing is, its a boon for Berkshire Massachusetts which doesn't need more boon. It's a net loss in business activity for Columbia County.

You don't have to like that second home owners are the back bone of this economy. But they are. Does Michigan hurt the auto industry? Does Los Angeles drive film companies out of town? Does Bolivia try to irradiate cocaine?

No. Your industry is your industry. You know it and you protect it. Only Columbia County tries to destroy its own economy and calls it "Open for Business."


  1. Second home-ownership is NOT Columbia County's primary industry. It's not even an industry. Rather, agriculture is the County's top industry followed in close second and directly tied-in to it is tourism. While I agree that an A&W joint tied in to a gas station (and who doesn't like to eat pre-fab food amongst gas and diesel fumes?!) is a crappy use of public dollars.

  2. Thank you for your comment. I'm sure if you add all the services (lawn, roof, new kitchen, real estate, horse boarding, etc.) and all the taxes (real estate, sales, fees at closing) and all the other benefits (donations to land conservation, attendance at art shows, etc.), the number one industry in the county is second home owners. They also buy local produces sometimes, they like open space, so they are not in fundamental conflict with agriculture. I agree it would be hard (but not impossible) to get a firm idea of what percent of the economy is dependent on second home owners, but I bet it is more important than agriculture, which is important not only in and of itself but aslo in that agriculture encourages tourism, which second home ownership is a major part.

    If you just count the real estate taxes paid by second home owners, you probably have an economic impact approaching agriculture without even accounting for the purchase of goods and services, but this is all a back of the envelope calculation.

  3. And even if agriculture is more significant than second home ownership, those two industries with other forms of tourism are way up there as the mainstay of the economy. A fast food restaurant just does not help either in any way. It hurts. It would be better not to spend the money and create those jobs. It's bad development and for the government to subsidize it is insane.