Thursday, November 15, 2018

Amazon HQ2: What would you do with a half billion dollars?

Just over 2 years ago, we at Confer Plastics bought a molding machine that is one of the largest on the planet. Of course, it wasn’t cheap, but we knew that going into it. Its purchase was made possible by using the company’s cash flows and opening up a line of credit with our bank.

We could have lessened the burden on our company significantly by pursuing a grant from the state. Rather easily, we could have received a grant approaching, if not exceeding, $1 million in size. But, we didn’t even attempt to do that and we stifled any conversations economic development officials wanted to have with us.

We did that for two reasons -- hypocrisy and ethics.

It would have been grossly hypocritical to take money from the state when not a day goes by that we don’t complain about the high cost of doing business in New York, a cost created in part by corporate welfare. Why contribute to a very real socioeconomic crisis facing upstate? 

It would have been unethical by our standards, although totally legal, to accept the grant. The money belongs to the people of New York. It is their money, better invested in infrastructure, libraries, and schools. New Yorkers should not be in the business of business. True entrepreneurs assume the risk of their business; they don’t pass it on to taxpayers.   

Some corporatists will say that we’re stupid, that we wasted money. Maybe. But, there’s far more to business, far more to life, than the almighty dollar. We can sleep at night, knowing we did the right thing.

Frankly, I don’t know how Governor Andrew Cuomo, Empire State Development CEO Howard Zemsky, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos can sleep at night after last week’s announcements regarding their fleecing of New York taxpayers.

Amazon is a company with revenues that approached $178 billion last year and Bezos is the richest man in the world with a net worth of $156 billion, yet Bezos’ people found it necessary to beg multiple states and provinces to give them the world in order to give them a home for HQ2. Somehow, Cuomo, Zemsky, and other power brokers in New York found it financially and ethically prudent to cater to the multibillionaire and give him a total incentive package approaching $3 billion to open up shop in Queens.

The thing that bothers me most is not the vast tax credits but rather the need to give them $505 million in cold, hard cash over a 10 to 15 year period to help Amazon recoup some of their construction costs. It’s guaranteed that Amazon would have made built HQ2 somewhere even if all of the states conspired against them and didn’t bait them, so public charity was never really necessary and it shouldn’t be. It’s Bezos’ business, let him grow it, let him assume the risk. Why should you? Why should I?   

They’re doing a reverse Robin Hood, taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. This is a half billion dollars, belonging to all New Yorkers, going towards the very top of the “One Percent”.

We have major issues all across the state. If we really do have a half-billion sitting around waiting to be spent, if I were in Cuomo’s shoes there are countless things I would take care. Here are a few…

The residents of the Central Adirondacks are holding a fund drive -- yes, a fund drive – to erect a critical $350,000 communications tower to be used by volunteer firefighters in the area of Inlet and Raquette Lake. Because of the mountains and the radio obstructions they create, their ability to communicate is suspect at best, every day putting firemen and general public safety at risk.

While we’re talking about first responders, don’t forget that come January 1st all volunteer fire companies must pay a pretty penny to buy a new cancer insurance for their interior firefighters. Why couldn’t the state self-insure in a way and make its own fund at $10 million?

Have you recently driven on the Thruway as it passes through the Cattaraugus Reservation? The state keeps that 12-mile stretch in the shape of a secondary road, mangled, potholed, and washboarded. What would it really take to fix the Thruway, the gateway, the connection to everything New York has to offer? 

Despite statements to the contrary, thousands of rural New Yorkers (their homes, businesses, and schools) are still lacking access to high speed internet. The state could build towers on municipal lands that they could sublet to telecommunications companies.

Decades of horrid state education policy drove the in-school trades classes the way of the dinosaur while also shortchanging STEM. Only recently has the state realized the folly in its ways and now sees the importance of those tracks. A few hundred million spread across the state would allow schools to bring back shop classes and invest in their science labs.  

New York has 1,800 structurally-deficient bridges that need repair or replacement.

I could go on and on. There are literally thousands of potential projects across the state that could benefit the people – and not just one billionaire.

Think about that…what would YOU do with a half billion dollars?      

From the 19 November 2018 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News     

No comments: