Team Volusia: The sham continues

Once again, Volusia County taxpayers were greeted with yet another highly touted “big win” for area economic development types that quietly fell flat.

A recent front page piece by News-Journal Business Reporter Clayton Park entitled “Where did Blue Coast Bakers go?” told the familiar story of how a business that promised some 300 jobs and was once hyped as a major “victory” by Team Volusia – a “public/private” partnership which utilizes corporate welfare schemes to lure businesses to Volusia County – seemingly vanished into thin air sometime last year. . .

In 2014, Blue Coast Bakers purchased the former US Foods distribution center on North US-1 in Ormond Beach, but never “got off the ground” – citing the cost of renovating the 30-year old building it purchased for some $3.8 million – an undertaking which took 2 ½ years and a reported $12 million to complete.

According to reports, the company never employed more than 15-20 people. . .

Although we are being told that the wholesale bakery did not receive any public funds or tax incentives from Team Volusia – the organization was quick to claim the company as “. . .one of its first successful efforts to bring a significant employer here.”

And the “good times are here again, again” publicity campaign didn’t stop there.

At first, the venture was given the super-secret cover “Project Baker” – least our gravy train be stolen by a competing “economic development corporation.”  (Sound familiar?)

In fact, a simple Google search finds evidence that everyone who is anyone in the local “economic development” apparatus – from government “leaders” to the Volusia Manufacturers Association and especially Team Volusia – touted Blue Coast as a virtual tsunami of prosperity and “high paying” jobs.

It was the ultimate fodder for shameless self-promotion at a time when Team Volusia – and the other hyper-redundant “economic development” shills really needed some positive publicity.

It was billed as a testament to the power of expensive direct mailings, and, finally, evidence of a return on our investment for the thousands of dollars in national and international travel for Team Volusia execs, VIP Rolex 24 soirees and other expensive perks and bait offered for other potential “Big Wins.”

Even the illustrious civic honchos at the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce proudly listed Blue Coast Bakers in it’s 2019 Membership Directory and Buyers Guide as one of Volusia County’s “Top Employers” at 300 jobs.  (Source: Team Volusia – July 2017 latest data – Page 49)

One small problem:  Blue Coast Bakers ceased operations in 2018 and everyone associated with the venture – including the measly “15 to 20” jobs it produced – has been MIA since. . .

I don’t make this shit up, folks.

“I’m not sure what happened,” said Team Volusia CEO Keith Norden, whose group played a key role in bringing Blue Coast Bakers here. “It took so much time for him to get set up, but his equipment was there.”

Well, Mr. Norden may have been poleaxed by the news – but I think I know what happened:

Team Volusia and others used Blue Coast Bakers as a cheap marketing tool to further their own self-interests – then promptly forgot about the poor rube when it unceremoniously folded.

They flogged the shit out it as the next big thing – touted a struggling start-up commercial bakery in an aging building as the best thing since sliced bread (pun intended), promised us all “high paying” jobs, then screamed and preened in various business journals and our local newspaper “Look at what we did, assholes!” as an ostentatious means of keeping their publicly funded do-nothing gigs – then, crickets, when the whole shebang folded and vaporized.

If you’re not pissed off – you should be. . .

Either the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce was intentionally duped by their “partners” at Team Volusia – or they deliberately puffed the 300 nonexistent jobs in their glossy magazine without any concern for the validity of the information.

And our civic “leadership” has the balls to claim we don’t have a public trust issue in Volusia County?

My ass.

In my view, this constitutes another malicious sham perpetrated against those of us who pay the bills – one that results in continuing distrust of our local governments – and the parasitic insiders who are always found lurking around these pernicious “public/private” partnerships which use public funds to further private interests. . .

I’m sick and tired of being blatantly lied to by these half-bright carnival barkers who burn through our hard-earned tax dollars under the dubious guise of “economic development” – using corporate welfare strategies that allow entrenched insiders to pick winners-and-losers and skew the natural balance of a competitive marketplace.

In my view, it is wrong.  It is dishonest.  And it needs to stop.

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