On Volusia: The Whole Enchilada

As a child of the 60’s, I can look back and see how far we’ve come in realizing the technological advances enjoyed by George Jetson and his “space age” family – conveniences that were unimaginable in a time when television was still black and white, no cell phones, personal computers, tablets, robots, 3D printing, eReaders, computer-aided design, or the everything all the time marvel of the internet.

While flying cars are still a ways off – autonomous drones are evolving into the workhorse of the sky – and moving walkways are now commonplace.  The Jetson’s “Televiewer,” which allowed George to read the news off a screen is antiquated, and robot vacuum cleaners are de rigueur in any modern home.

As advances in robotics and artificial intelligence are incorporated into business and industry, George’s envious workweek of three, three-hour days spent pushing buttons is increasingly becoming a reality as the challenges posed by flesh-and-blood labor are solved by automated ecommerce systems.

After all, high-speed robotic arms and scanners that power packaging and palletizing lines – then unload, scan, sort, store, select, load and ship orders without any human intervention beyond computer programming – don’t call in sick, take a bathroom break, require vacation leave or file for workers comp – and they never hire labor attorneys. . .

Once these direct labor jobs are automatized, retailers and their logistics providers see a reduction in indirect labor costs – such as supervision, human resources, housekeeping, quality assurance, inventory management, safety and security – limiting expenses to the essential functions of equipment programming and maintenance, operational engineering and information technology support.

Studies by respected market researchers have shown that up to 32 percent of workers doing routine, repetitive and predictable tasks will need to transition to entirely different occupations by 2030 due to automation.

With the industry in flux, why are Volusia County economic development shills focused on pursuing warehouse and distribution operations under the nonsensical guise of “high paying jobs”?

Look, I’m no expert on the operation and management of large distribution facilities – just a blowhard with an opinion on everything – but I can read and understand trends, and so can our self-styled business recruitment gurus, who have built a cottage industry serving as a conduit between our money and the next big thing.

It doesn’t take a logistics engineer  to understand that, with hundreds of new consumers moving into Central Florida every day, online retailers – and established brick and mortar chains – will build their warehouse and distribution centers exactly where corporate analysts believe it will best serve their order-fulfillment needs in the most economically efficient manner possible – and they don’t need the input of some sketchy public/private “economic development” consortium – or our hard-earned tax dollars – to do it.

Clearly, distribution centers are the low hanging fruit of the economic development game in an era where publicly funded corporate welfare has reduced negotiations to filling the slop trough with our money.

Following a clumsy roll out orchestrated by Team Volusia just before Christmas, on Thursday, the City of Deltona finally announced what everyone with two synapses still firing have known for months – Amazon will open a massive distribution center at North Normandy Boulevard and East Graves Avenue.

So much for those super-secret “non-disclosure agreements,” that, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, apparently weren’t worth the paper they were printed on:

“Elected officials and employees at the city and Volusia County knew.

Representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation knew. CareerSource Flagler Volusia, Team Volusia and Enterprise Florida all knew. Local marketing executives and RMA, a Pompano Beach-based consulting firm, all knew.

And a lot of their friends and business associates knew too.

Some even told The News-Journal — but wouldn’t allow themselves to be quoted.”

Wow.

So much for the personal integrity of those who hold positions of trust in our community.

I don’t agree with the whole Secret Squirrel gamesmanship when public funds are involved – but, if that’s the law – follow it, dammit.

These jabbering assholes have the self-restraint of Kristen Wiig’s Saturday Night Live character, “Surprise Party Sue,” who loves to be in on the secret, yet can’t physically control herself from spilling the beans.

Welcome to Volusia County, Mr. Bezos – the rules are different here. . .

My God.  What a shit show.

I guess getting a jump on the competition in Volusia County really is all about who you know, eh?

Following the grand reveal, the Deltona City Commission made good on a promise to offer Amazon (who last year reported annual revenues of $232.9 billion) a healthy incentive package worth some $2.5 million in ad valorem tax rebates over five years – provided the ecommerce giant agrees to produce 500 jobs paying storeroom wages.

I don’t mean to denigrate the behemoth’s ultimate contribution to the local economy (especially to the personal pocketbooks of those “friends and business associates” of our high and mighty elected and appointed officials who got an unfair heads-up) – but, with rent in greater Deltona averaging $1,114 – I just don’t see $2,600 a month as living high on the hog – especially in an unstable environment where human employees are rapidly becoming an operational and financial inconvenience in the age of automation.

And I don’t see the need to give the biggest business in the universe one dime of public funds.

The site is located almost equidistant between all major population centers in Central Florida with immediate access to I-4 – and had anyone bothered to ask – I’ll just bet Amazon, or any other mega-retailer looking for an order fulfillment advantage – would have paid the City of Deltona handsomely for the privilege of locating on the most suitable real estate in the region.

But we’ll never know.

We also don’t know what a 1.4 million square foot distribution warehouse looks like in five, ten or fifteen years – or what happens once Amazon’s initial infrastructure investment becomes antiquated and overburdened.

In fact, a lot of unanswered questions remain.

In my view, one thing is crystal clear following this ham-handed process – Team Volusia’s fumbling president, Keith Norden, proved once and for all, that – beyond over-dramatizing Team Volusia’s intrusive meddling in municipal affairs – and taking eleventh-hour credit for the “major get” – he and his senior staff don’t have the acumen to pour piss out of a boot with the instructions on the heel, much less advocate to the financial advantage of long-suffering Volusia County taxpayers.

Congratulations, Deltona.

Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it.

And you just got the whole enchilada, baby. . .

 

2 thoughts on “On Volusia: The Whole Enchilada

  1. I absolutely love your analogies, sick as they may sound to the naysayers. Secret Squirrel—love it! Shit show—perfect! And my personal favorite …..pour piss out of a boot with the instructions on the heel! Perfect analogies for more of our tax dollars going down the toilet for a company that has more money than Carter’s has little liver pills.

    Like

    1. The analogies are not sick, just to the point & truthful, which the naysayers do not want hear. Another great post. I really look forward to more in 2020.

      Like

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