Thursday, December 04, 2008

Incentive vs. Investment

One of the more interesting narratives emerging already from the NBAF decision is that the main reason it opted for Kansas was because of an attractive incentive package. That's been noted by several folks, and it was noted in the draft of the recommendation memo. Still, it's not the only factor, and I think we could do a disservice to our economic development efforts (across the state as a whole) if we fall into the trap of adding even more emphasis to incentives as a viable recruitment tool.

The language from the recommendations reads ...

Based on the lack of proximity to NBAF related research and workforce in comparison to the preferred alternative, the active community opposition, and the lack of a competitive offset package, I did not select the South Milledge Avenue Site as the preferred alternative.

There were three other factors listed as deterrants, all before the mention of the offset package. And one of the ones that keeps emerging is a lack of an appropriate workforce to handle the tasks that would go on at the facility. This isn't the first time Athens-Clarke County has heard this as an excuse as it was a factor that played into the decisions by both Novartis and Solvay to locate elsewhere (though the Solvay bid featured little push by state officials to land the project).

My point being that there must be a necessary balance between offering incentives for businesses and making investments in the community to effectively land businesses, and I would argue that more emphasis needs to be placed on the latter by the state given our woeful job creation numbers the past six years.


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