Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Incentives In Greensboro: Part 12

As my series, Incentives In Greensboro continues in response to Mayor Nancy Baracat Vaughan's Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 News & Record article, City Handles Incentives Effectively I can't help but wonder if I'm beating a dead horse? Is Nancy a dead horse?

Often incentives aren't called incentives. Such was the case with Elon Law in downtown Greensboro. The property where Elon Law is located was previously the downtown branch of the Greensboro Public Library-- surplus property of the City of Greensboro. But rather that sell this surplus property via competitive bidding to the highest bidder the Greensboro City Council chose to instead work out a deal with Elon University to build a law school in downtown Greensboro under the guise of economic development.

Now in case you're not aware, Elon University is a private, for profit corporation that just happens to be in the education business. Yes, they have a long history of excellence but Elon remains a private corporation just the same.

With the help of several of Greensboro's most well known "non profits" a deal was worked out to sell the old library to Elon Law without opening up the property to competitive bidding. Any possible loss the City of Greensboro took on the sale of said property is a hidden incentive.

Now Mayor Nancy Baracat Vaughan like Mayors before her will champion Elon Law as a great success but Elon Law is only set to graduate their first class.:

"Enrollments are falling nationally — Elon’s class of first-year students is down about 10 — law firms are hiring fewer graduates and high tuition leaves many young lawyers with heavy debt."

How many new jobs did Elon Law bring to Greensboro? That's the question Mayor Vaughan wants you to ask but a better question is: How many existing Greensboro residents did Elon Law hire?

No matter what the number it will be a lot lower than Mayor Vaughan wants to admit.

The incentive programs that Greensboro has undertaken over the years have been quite good at luring highly paid professionals, many of them very nice folks, from other cities to come to Greensboro's west side but these same programs have done nothing but take away from Greensboro's blue collar working class while increasing unemployment overall. Something must change and building shopping centers and downtown housing while continuing to attempt to lure companies to move to Greensboro, as is the Mayor's current plan, will not solve the problem.

Like incentive programs everywhere, Greensboro's incentive programs rob from the blue collar and give to the rich while only shuffling jobs from one city to another. It's time for Greensboro to buck this real estate development driven trend and invest in home grown industries that will stay in Greensboro forever, setting an example for other cities to follow.

After all, it was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. And I think we all know Albert was a lot smarter than Nancy.

Please continue reading Incentives In Greensboro: Part 13