By Colin Read
Issue: April 2022
We are justifiably proud of the great work that attracts such notable entities as Nova Bus, Alstom (formerly Bombardier) and others to town and creates organizations such as JCEO and MHAB.
I have never been on a Nova bus or ridden in a Bombardier rail car and I hope I do not need the important services our area not-for-profits provide. While some of us may have attended SUNY Plattsburgh or Clinton Community College or have spent a night or more at CVPH, we should all be glad they are here for other reasons. These examples of great corporate citizens are valued for their economic development not only, or perhaps not even primarily, for the goods and services they provide, but rather for the livelihood they ensure for all of us.
Each of these organizations export their services beyond, and in some cases well beyond the communities that house them. Often, the profits that flow from them go elsewhere too. We value economic development for the jobs it creates here.
It is these jobs that then spawn the purchase of houses, invariably beyond the communities where the facilities are located. These homes generate property taxes that are the primary source of local government funding.
The staff, from Nova Bus to CVPH, are our neighbors and friends. They are members of our school boards and coaches of our Little League teams. They support our cultural organizations.
They spend most of their income locally, which benefits the entire area. And for each of their jobs is another job for our local service providers.
That is why we do economic development. It is for those reasons why we sometimes offer technical or financial assistance for entities in proportion to the jobs they create. It is why we partition our scarce resources of land, electricity and local infrastructure. We lever what we can offer to them because they create more jobs for us. Ultimately, jobs created should well exceed the enticements or efficiencies we provide.
Smart economic developers and politicians understand it is ultimately about the number of jobs created. We’ve seen many fly-by-nighters try to come to our region to take advantage of the incredibly low electricity rates in the City of Plattsburgh or Rouses Point. We look past their glossy sales pitches and we ask one thing. For every facility we provide them, for every megawatt of power we can offer, we ask how much livelihood can these entities give us to enrich our communities.
After all, our land and resources are here ultimately to serve us. There is a manufacturer in our region that employs more than 450 people and is directly and indirectly responsible for a thousand jobs. To facilitate its success, we sell companies less than five megawatts of power at a rate that is the envy of the country. They pay significant property taxes and their employment base supports our towns and city.
As we speak about local economic development and construction, we are wise to concentrate more on the other side of the coin. Economic development is a partnership. It is a fair question to ask what each organization we invite to our region does, not just for themselves, but for our region.
By this measure, I am most grateful that Nova Bus, Mold-Rite, Prevost, Alston/Bombardier, Georgia Pacific, our SUNY campuses, the hospital, MHAB, JCEO and other amazing corporate citizens have chosen us. But it is equally significant that we recognize what they do for us and what induced us to choose them.
Dr. Colin Read is a professor of economics and finance at SUNY Plattsburgh’s School of Business & Finance. You can read his weekly blogs on the economy at www.everybodysbusiness.online.