I don’t know about you, but I don’t respond well to threats.
Perhaps it’s my rebellious nature and highly-developed sense of fairness – or maybe I don’t appreciate it when someone puts a knife in my ribs and makes demands – because that is the textbook definition of extortion, not the give-and-take of negotiation.
Somewhere along the line (about the time our perverted campaign finance scheme came off the rails) state and local governments became piggybanks – showering millions in public funds and tax incentives on any business and industry who knew the secret password: “high paying jobs.”
It also helps if they remember which political campaign to donate to when the time comes. . .
Like all enterprises subject to the immutable ebb and flow of the marketplace, it is rare when a business who receives an artificial infusion of cash from a government entity can make good on those guarantees.
More disturbing, the no-strings-attached nature of these giveaways make it almost impossible for government to recover “our” investment, when downturns lead to layoffs, or worse. . .
And when recipients of our elected official’s largesse fail to live up to expectations – those “economic development” shills who put the deal the together could care less.
After all, they didn’t gamble with their own money – and its always easy to fall back on the mantra – “It takes money to make money.”
In my view, this weird system is tailor made for problems – a smokescreen of backroom maneuvering where municipal business development practitioners have mysterious “code-named” projects poached by the public/private Team Volusia – which normally serves as little more than an international travel club for Keith Norden and Company – who claim credit for just about every business start or relocation that comes our way.
Of course, non-disclosure agreements keep the prying eyes of John Q. Public away while the sausage is being made – because our role in the process is to pay the bills, remain silent, and be thankful for the warehouse jobs and minimum wage scut work – while crony capitalism rules the day.
Last week, The Daytona Beach News-Journal ran a disturbing piece by business reporter Clayton Park regarding FitUSA – a local sportswear manufacturer who found sudden success producing face masks and personal protective equipment for a variety of end users during the pandemic.
According to the report, six-months ago, FitUSA President Troy Olson sought assistance from the City of Ormond Beach to launch FitUSA Medical – the division which produces PPE – “…in an effort to save his struggling sports apparel company.”
Now that his manufacturing company has become wildly successful, it appears Mr. Olson is back with a new proposition – pay up, or we move our company – and the 500 new jobs it promises – to Atlanta.
You read that right.
If the city, county, and state fail to produce a goody bag worth between $5 million and $7 million in the next few weeks – one that matches the lucrative inducements being offered by the State of Georgia – we are told FitUSA could possibly relocate its operations to Atlanta.
Three years ago, former County Manager Jim Dinneen warned that if the City of Daytona Beach, County of Volusia and the State of Florida failed to cough up a collective $15.5 million in incentives to underwrite Brown & Brown’s new headquarters building on Beach Street – King J. Hyatt Brown just might up and move the whole shebang to Hot ‘Lanta.
Right. . .
And don’t get me started on the $4.5 million in grants that were gifted to Tanger Outlets – or the $40 million in city/county incentives granted to the privately owned One Daytona – which, even with massive public support and “amenity fees,” continues to struggle to keep tenants alive six years on.
Trust me. It doesn’t stop there.
The list of those who have received public handouts is a long and distinguished line of the Halifax areas civic and economic elite. . .
In a confusing about-face, earlier this week, FitUSA advised the News-Journal that it apparently failed to notify its current employees in Ormond Beach about the company’s plans – which sparked an internal panic – resulting in a quick clarification that the sports apparel division would remain here – while FitUSA Medical will potentially move out of state absent public incentives.
We also learned that Dr. Kent Sharples and his shadowy Star Chamber of millionaires at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance have insinuated themselves into the mix – offering to match the City of Ormond Beach’s offer, “…so long as the jobs created by FitUSA would pay an average of at least 115% of the current average annual salary for workers in Volusia County.”
Some might see that as a noble effort, until you realize that most workers in Volusia County earn an average annual wage of just $38,760, so, the 115% requirement would pay those sewing for FitUSA some $44,574 – which is some $3,274 above the annual wage ($41,300) of the “hundreds of jobs” Brown & Brown promised in return for its whopping incentive package – and far above the national average for the industrial sewing trade.
Look, I am all about raising the bar – let demand for skills drive the market, I say – but are those salary levels sustainable long-term?
I don’t know.
It appears Dr. Sharples doesn’t either.
According to the News-Journal, “That is the hard part with that,” said Olson of the CEO Business Alliance’s incentive offer. “They are asking us to pay higher than the average annual wage for the (apparel) industry. The top sewers in the country don’t earn that much.”
In my view, this is just one reason why government has no business meddling in the private marketplace – picking winners and losers while skewing the playing field – and why no one in their right mind would allow Dr. Kent Sharples and his band of sharks at the CEO Alliance within a hundred miles of their business. . .
Here’s hoping Troy Olson and FitUSA see the inherent benefits of keeping his workforce in Volusia County without demanding burdensome government handouts to gain a short-term advantage.
In my view, that’s not what good corporate citizens do.
Clearly, Ormond Beach has much to offer that Metro Atlanta doesn’t – and the top three reasons are traffic, traffic and traffic – not to mention the fact the State of Florida has no state income tax, a relatively low cost of living, beautiful weather, ready access to interstate logistics and transportation, great quality of life and a diverse workforce.
If that’s not enough – then get the hell out.
Because when businesses receive corporate welfare and government-granted favoritism it costs the rest of us – while providing the influential elite even greater dominance in Volusia County’s artificial economy – at least until natural market factors intervene and the revolving door continues.
It’s time for this patently unfair give or take to stop.