Letter: Incentives are deceptive lure, and Sides, Hall didn't bite

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 25, 2007

The news media are fond of reminding the rest of us of their First Amendment rights and that “the public has a right to know.” But the media offers no guaranteed accuracy of their reports, such as the Jan. 18 Salisbury Post editorial, “A done deal, on close vote,” concerning the Toyota incentive package.

No business has a right to incentives. They are a privilege awarded, not by law, but by discretionary guidelines approved by the Rowan County commissioners. Why else would commissioners need to vote on incentive requests? Jim Sides and Tina Hall voted the way most of us elected them to vote, and the editorial writer’s “inject this sour note” comment was inappropriate.

Incentives are deceptive, with numerous hidden costs that have risen exponentially for the “prize catch.” In 1980, Tennessee offered Nissan $11,000 per job created, substantial at the time. But 13 years later, Alabama offered $150,000 to $200,000 per job for a new Mercedes-Benz plant. Mercedes had the temerity to ask the state to pay employees’ salaries for the first five years, which state officials declined.

Currently, Lenoir (Caldwell County) plans to grant incentives worth 30 years of personal property tax and 80 percent of real estate tax — more than $100 million — on a $600 million plant that the Internet giant Google plans to build. Potentially, Google will employ 210 people. Those jobs will cost taxpayers $476,000 each and could hit $600,000 at the final tally.

The Toyota plan, touted initially as offering 40 jobs at $70,000 per year, now appears to offer nothing to ordinary Rowan citizens, except — maybe — janitorial work.

County funding for the Rowan EDC needs to be cut and requests for incentives submitted directly to county commissioners. Randy Harrell is too free and loose with our tax money. When will the taxpayers finally say, enough?

— Bill Ward