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ECONOMIC ‘DEVELOPMENT’ or ECONOMIC ‘FRAUD’? Pt. 1 OF A 3-PT. SERIES, but first, VALENTI TO KROL: ‘What a SNOW JOB’ … & VALENTI CHALLENGES TIM FARKAS TO DEBATE

"Downtown development" is N-O-T "economic development, but Pittsfield officials don't want to know that.

NOTE — Today begins the first of a three-part series on economic development that intends to (a) expose the false premises upon which the city of Pittsfield has built its arguments about the future growth of the area, (b) show how economic development is not dependent upon a region’s size but its smarts, and (c) share how other communities get it done when Pittsfield doesn’t. Our intention is instructive. This is the kind of discussion that Pittsfield is either not smart enough to entertain or is afraid to have because the sainted few might find the gravy train pulling out of town.

JOHN KROL and the politicization of snow.

Before we get to that, we present this aftermath to the Blizzard of the Milennia and the shock it caused many that it, uh, occasionally, you know, snows in late December in the Northeast.

What follows is an e-mail exchange between The Planet and Ward 6 city councilor John Krol, who thought it necessary to add to the bulletins and emergency warnings put out by the city by posting the city’s warning on his Facebook page. We made jocular reference to this, and Krol took exception. Here is the unedited exchange. It begins with Krol getting back to The Planet:

KROL TO VALENTI:

On Dec 29, 2010, at 9:54 AM, Krol John wrote:

VALENTI wasn't buying Krol's "snow job." The earth didn't end. The sky didn't fall. It, (ulp!) s-s-s-snowed!

Hi Dan,

I think it was perfectly appropriate to remind people that a Snow Emergency means that there will be no on-street parking – or else you’ll likely be towed. Believe it or not, many people do forget, as I’ve heard from those who have been towed during past snowstorms to allow our plows full-access. I think people are appreciative, and would rather have that reminder than have to deal with the hassle and cost of getting their vehicle back after being impounded.

Please don’t misrepresent my message as an overreaction to a snowstorm.
———-
VALENTI RESPONDED TO KROL:
Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 4:01 PM

C’mon. It was “Oh gosh, the sky is falling with snow.”
If people are stupid enough not to have gotten the message by now, without hearing from you, then they deserve a tow and a ticket.

Just admit it: It’s a good excuse to get “the name” out there.
—————-
KROL TO VALENTI


No, Dan. I disagree. I had someone talk to me over the holidays about how his truck had gotten towed last year, and was shocked….it’s one thing to say it’s an emergency….it’s another thing to make sure people know what that means.

If started hearing from “your spies” that the city was towing people with no warning, I’m sure you’d jump all over the city and councilors for failing to get the word out. Don’t be a hypocrite.
———————–
VALENTI TO KROL
Well, we responded that his “emergency” warning to his constituents advertised his name, “writ large” as well as his “pretty mug.” With that, The Planet assigned the conversation to a nearby snow drift.

——————————————–

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT or INDIGESTION: PART ONE IN A THREE-PART SERIES

BY DAN VALENTI AND FRANCOIS ARNEAU

Take another look, then get your ass out of town if you don't do it "our way."

How many times have you heard the term “economic development” thrown around by every elected official in the country. Pittsfield is no exception. Each election, the electorate gets subjected to the Manchurian Candidates talking about “economic development” and “jobs.” We have come to disbelieve every word they say, because, since GE pulled up the ghost, we’ve seen nothing but seeds and stems.

The favored method of Pittsfield is to use large chunks of the GE Economic Development Fund entrusted to the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority for essentially unregulated, unaccounted, and unaccountable giveaways to an assortment of fly-by-nighters, con artists, fast talkers, and midnight walkers.

Economic development works if officials work with We The People and ask our opinions.

Each time we get involved with a Workshop Live, a Spice, an EV Worldwide, a Patriots Resorts, and the like, a tiny handful of people get rich, elected officials get fat, and taxpayers get shafted. These types of projects create no growth, and yet they are always billed as “economic engines.”

The Colonial Theatre was sold, $25 million worth, as an economic engine. It’s hemorrhaging money (The Planet trusts that Kate Maguire of the estimable Berkshire Theatre Festival will address that situation and not care about the minefield of politics involved in doing so)

The term “economic development” is so misunderstood that it has become meaningless or worse. In Pittsfield, the phrase (one adjective, one noun) is associated with schemes, scams and even white collar criminal activity.

In the City of Pittsfield, untold dollars and human resources get spent on “economic development” with no real measure of the success of those expenditures. Is this done on purpose to deliberately muddy the waters and tout one’s own administration and its accomplishments? Or mask the lack thereof?



Pittsfield: THE HAVES vs. the have nots. THE PLANET will fight for the "have nots."

Granted, measuring the effects of any economic development is difficult at best. However, the majority of redevelopment experts agree that no number of

“feel good” stories published

in any newspaper, magazine, or website can overcome the perception or the “buzz” of the local residents.



Perhaps the most reliable common measure, then, of economic development can be found in the “buzz” an area generates. The “buzz” is the sum total of a mysterious mingling of ambience, perception, zeitgeist, and “feel.” Is the area alive or dead? Manhattan, NYC, has the “It” factor. Stockbridge, Mass., has “It.” Love Canal, N.Y. doesn’t have “It.”



Pittsfield is no different than any other municipality in that respect. Ask yourself, honestly: Does Pittsfield have “It.” The answer is “no.”



You gotta have the right mix

The Planet, which takes a back seat to no one in our love for our little town, chooses not to lament the screwing public officials have givenThe Little Guy. The Planet believes Pittsfield can find its way out of an economic, political, and cultural morass that is now a generation old. The Planet is the Optimist here.


The so-called “rah-rah cheerleaders” for the city are the jaded negativists. We want positive change. They want to keep the people stupid, barefoot, and ripe for the picking. In short, we want to lead this city to the future. They want to keep the city dead in its tracks. The Planet is part of the media. We take our role as the 4th Estate seriously. We will fight, in the great tradition of newspaper muckracking, for the oppressed. We will sting the oppressors. What has the Berkshire Eagle done?



We mention the Eagle because it is still, sadly, the dominant media player in the area (a situation, by the way, The Planet aims to rectify in the days, months, and years ahead). The Berkshire Eagle, by virtue of having sold its soul to its corporate masters in Denver and its corrupt masters among the Pittsfield 100, wants death. The Eagle is afraid, sacred to death, of upsetting the sacred cows. The Planet wants life. The Planet is afraid only of not having done enough for the citizens of the good city.


———————————————————————A CHALLENGE!!

THE PLANET, therefore, issues this public challenge to Tim Farkas, executive editor of the Eagle. We challenge Farkas to a public debate. At issue: What is the role and what are the responsibilities of the 4th Estate to a community? We contend that the Eagle has neglected those responsibilities and, by acquiescence, enabled criminality and helped condemn a once-great city to a life of haves and have nots. We give Tim Farkas one week from today to accept this challenge or be branded cowardly. We will debate at the Colonial Theater. No notes. Just wits. Farkas, The Planet is your humble servant in awaiting your reply. My dear readers, help pressure Farkas into accepting. his e-mail address is tfarkas@berkshireeagle.com.

———————————————- WILL FARKAS AGREE TO DEBATE VALENTI? ——————————————————-

Lots of Agencies, No Results

It's a joke, right?

We have PEDA, PERC, BEDC, MASSECON, Downtown Inc., the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, and others all receiving taxpayer dollars to promote economic development, be it targeted (downtown) or regional. The above list doesn’t take into account elected officials, Commonwealth organizations, and Federal agencies (OCD, anyone, led by First Assistant Mayor Deanna Ruffer). All of them expend both capital and human resources on “economic development.”

Does it work? In a year, what is the sum total of all the expenditures and what are the results? If the results are in the range of “good to great,” then do we stay the course? If they’re not as good as expected, do we reevaluate? Is “economic development” working the way it’s practiced in Pittsfield?

One look around Pittsfield gives you the answer. Where is the growth? Where is the vibrancy? Where are the respectable, ordinary people who frequent downtown on a routine basis? Where are the new businesses that are expanding the tax base? Not there.

Can we afford to blame the economy? Or do we gear up for the end of the recession? Many companies have expanded, but Pittsfield hasn’t attracted them. Why?

For almost a decade, Pittsfield officials have equated “downtown redevelopment” with “economic development.” This, we have isolated as THE fatal flaw.

They are not the same. In fact, they differ diametrically. Communities such as Pittsfield that confuse the two terms are losing the battle for both new businesses to the area and downtown redevelopment.

North Carolina did it. Why not us? Yeah... why the great balsy yarblockos NOT US? Maybe Council President Gerry Lee knows the answer.

Let’s look at the example of a region that has its terminology clear and its goals well articulated. Recently, in the last three years, the western North Carolina region has had astonishing success at “economic development,” luring four high-tech firms to expand there. We include the links so you can check it out for yourself:

    • In early 2007 Google announced plans to build a $600 million data center in Lenoir, a town of 17,000 residents in Caldwell County.

    • In 2009 Apple chose the small town of Maiden (population 3,300) in Catawba County for a $1 billion data center campus.

    • On Nov. 11, Facebook unveiled plans to invest $450 million in a new data center facility in Forest City (pop. 7,500) in Rutherford County.

    • On Monday, Wipro Infocrossing confirmed plans to build a $75 million data center in Kings Mountain in Cleveland County, which has about 10,000 residents.

And another company that you might have heard of is building in Boydton, Virginia, population 500.

  • Microsoft Picks Virginia for Major Data Center

With all the economic development agencies listed above, did the City of Pittsfield or any other agency representing Pittsfield or —better put — slurping taxpayer dollars put together a proposal to any of the companies? If not why not? If so, did we follow up to see why the companies decided to go elsewhere?

Why would these companies locate in rural western NC? Are they not aware of the Colonial Theatre? The Beacon Cinema? Jays Spice? All the redevelopment on North Street? The renaissance currently under way? You mean to say that none of these attractions were enough to lure Apple or Microsoft? Or — or — are those very things being confused with “economic development”?

“Downtown redevelopment” in Pittsfield has been used as a club against perspective new business deals. This practice harms economic development. Pittsfield is notorious for placing conditions on new businesses, forcing them to favor certain suppliers or grease certain connceted businesses. Apple, Facebook, etc. won’t take those terms.

They had a billion to spend. Pittsfield didn't care, apparently.

Apple, Google, Facebook, and Wipro located the new facilities in NC because of tax incentives and cheap electricity. The state of NC has worked hard along with Duke Energy to keep electricity affordable to everyone business and homeowners alike in efforts to attract new business.

How hard did the “economic development” experts of Pittsfield work, you know, the ones that are being paid with taxpayers’ money?

Many experts point out that in the NC area, the towns are small enough that downtown redevelopment will be accomplished by the spending of the new employees. The new employees who move in will vote with their dollars for what type of restaurants, coffee shops and other amenities the downtown will have.

Another pitfall of downtown redevelopment, Pittsfield style, is that local governments have a vested interest in the filling of the vacant shops. Thus, they either steer or outright demand new companies to support the Local Cause du jour, be it a theater or a restored building, whether it reflects that companies goals or not.

Executives of companies such as Apple and Google won’t deal with communities like this. Of course, if you don’t put your line in the water, you won’t catch any fish. That’s a given. There’s no guarantee that if you do cast with bait, you land a beauty, but not casting guarantees that your basket stays empty.

Question: Was Pittsfield aware of these expansion plans by Google, Apple, etc. If not, why not? If so, did it attempt to make a presentation? Did it at least try? No? Then why bloody heck not? Where were our “experts”?

We have a lot of Alphabet Agencies in Pittsfield pretending to be “economic development” concerns. They are little more than frauds. The taxpayers deserve better. We deserve Apple, building a $1 billion data center on Dan Fox Drive. That was once targeted as Pittsfield’s “128 beltway” or “Silicon Valley.” Today, it’s the home of a giant haunted house, Patriot Place, that ate up public money and ran.

PART TWO OF THIS SERIES ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT WILL BE PUBLISHED DEC. 31.

WE INVITE YOUR COMMENTS.




23 Responses to “ECONOMIC ‘DEVELOPMENT’ or ECONOMIC ‘FRAUD’? Pt. 1 OF A 3-PT. SERIES, but first, VALENTI TO KROL: ‘What a SNOW JOB’ … & VALENTI CHALLENGES TIM FARKAS TO DEBATE”

  1. Joe Pinhead
    December 29, 2010 at 8:15 pm #

    I love the economic development discussion it is long overdue, along with a review of all those agencies that have yet to deliver. What is the total investment and the actual return? I know the Eagle’s position will be its all Bush’s fault. Krol might figure the people in his ward need a reminder I mean really he knows that they voted for him. That might make him question if they knew it snowed out it Might be hard to tell with the wool still over your eyes. Let’s see if he posts that there is a fiscal emergency on his facebook page or even engages in the discussion on economic development.

  2. Craig Swinson
    December 29, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    The only creative economy is the jobs “creatively” created to give Ruberto’s buddies jobs.

  3. Scott Laugenour
    December 29, 2010 at 10:12 pm #

    I recall a favorite weather forecast I heard on WTBR a year ago. “The forecast for tonight: it’s going to be dark.” I only heard that once or twice, I hope the faculty didn’t clamp down on the students, who were obviously using their radio station to parody our obsession with weather.

    No one is against ‘economic development’ but we have under-scrutinized the line items of our municipal and state budgets that bear that name. It’s time to do the kind of digging that insiders don’t do.

    • Jeffrey Turner
      December 29, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

      Scott, it’s good to hear that WTBR is recycling 40 year old George Carlin routines. I’m sure that following North Carolina’s model isn’t the best path for the people of Massachusetts, however much Valenti and his corporate masters at Google and Apple may salivate at the public subsidies he wants to lavish on them. Or the cost of “cheap” energy from coal down the road.

      • Joe Pinhead
        December 30, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

        But shouldnt we be having a discussion regarding infrastructure now? wouldnt that be real economic development? preparing so any corporation could come in and have equal access to resources? Example we can be certain any type of manufacturing or industry will need power, as such lets develop a mix of power generation that reflects the culture and philosphopy of the area. a mix that would be available to all and would reflect good stewardship of our best resource the scenic area. not spending both human and fiscal resources on an eating establishment.

        • Jeffrey Turner
          December 31, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

          Maybe you missed it, Joe, but the PEDA site doesn’t look so bad and an array of solar PEVs was just completed there. Which infrastructure and energy resources are you talking about developing?

          • Joe Pinhead
            December 31, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

            How much capacity will the solar panels provide? we have the 5th highest electrcity in the country Are you saying that we can now meet demand for Manufacturing? or a Data center? I think we might need one or two more panels. If we are going to manufacture have we developed the capacity to move material in and product out? have we decided how to build out any future project in an attempt to draw in a type of industry? Have we defined responcibility for whom should be doing what portions? or are we waiting for the silverbullet to show up? These are the things we need to hash out as a community. What are the goals and objectives not to mention a timeline to complete XXX number of private investment? Im just looking for a plan that can be used to determine and measure results is that bad?

          • Jeffrey Turner
            January 1, 2011 at 8:45 am #

            Joe, building all that solar on-spec in this economy isn’t going to be easy – and it won’t be economically competitive with North Carolina. And cheap electricity is killing the planet. The whole capitalist model is dysfunctional. The workweek is too long and profits are too high. But Pittsfield alone isn’t going to fix the system.

          • Jeffrey Turner
            January 1, 2011 at 9:20 am #

            Or we can all work harder for less to subsidize Apple and Google and give them lots of cheap energy.

          • Joe Pinhead
            January 2, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

            Jeffery are you thinking that Pittsfield is going to change the work week? Are you saying that I in fact have missed the boat and might want to consider a position at Spice? Please let me know what are the working conditions? will I get Benifits? can I support a family? can I afford the electric bill?
            Is it better to work harder and longer to subsidize Spice or the Beacon? and give them cheap sweatshop labor?

  4. pjmh
    December 30, 2010 at 5:01 am #

    Nice read DV.

    Ugh. It’s not happening. Bottom line, zero vibe. None. Too many social services in the heart of “downtown” (and a hospital nearby) and not enough people with the socioeconomic means to support, or make it happen.

    However, to those merchants that are busting their butts and taking a risk to make it happen, thank you!

    Check out Warren Street in Hudson, NY. Talk about a complete 180, that’s how you pull it off…

  5. Bruce Winn
    December 30, 2010 at 5:10 am #

    Hi Dan,
    What you’re describing is at the center of so many problems in Pittsfield. So many times we’ve seen privately funded projects that offered all kinds of environmental benefits (our organization’s major concern) killed by city officials because they had a better idea that involved spending tax money or grant money (tax money under a different name). These projects that are given special favors and incentives typically offer no environmental safeguards (had to be done on the cheap so that more of the tax money could be retained as profit). The misdeeds you’re describing have a negative impact on so many facets of city life – education, law enforcement, the environment, social services – the diverted money is lost money. It’s my contention that the business of city government, as our leaders see it, is to take in tax money and grant money and direct it to the privileged few. Keep up the pressure.
    Bruce Winn
    President, Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT)

    • Jeffrey Turner
      December 31, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

      I’m sorry, Bruce, what did The Planet describe? I read some vague allegations and a lot of questions, but if this is supposed to be an alternative to the Eagle I can’t even wrap fish in it.

  6. The name
    December 30, 2010 at 5:25 am #

    In nearly the same breath, the virtually unknown (except in his own little world):

    1). Accusses John Krol of trying to get his “name” out there by reminding his constituents of the blizzard warning,

    2) Valenti calls out Tim Farkas for public debate, a transparent attempt on Valenti’s part to become known beyond his half-dozen like-minded website followers.

  7. Still wondering
    December 30, 2010 at 6:40 am #

    I agree that there are several “alphabet” organizations out there trying to ring economic activity to the central Berksshires. But, let’s keep up to date.
    First, the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce is a shadow of its former self and is being “managed” into the ground by its current President. He has not fired several totally incomptent staff members and defends them repeated in public. Why? Is he THAT stupid?
    Second, BEDC no longer exists thank goodness. The Director was a total do nothing and his assistant is just plain nuts.
    So, a small amount of progress has been made but we have a long long way to go.
    What should be done first? DR has to go! Then replace JR with a mayor who gives a damn.

  8. no freee speech
    December 30, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    Valenti took down an earlier post that pointed out that:

    1) Valenti accused Krol of getting his “name” out there by reiterating the blizzard warning,

    …but in nearly the same breath…

    2) Valenti challenges the Eagle’s Editor (Farkas) to an unnecessary debate at the Colonial Theater.

    Valenti blames Krol doing something, then turns right around and does it himself.

    Class act!

  9. Jonathan Melle
    December 30, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    Pittsfield is getting worse and worse every year. Population loss, job loss, crime, poorly performing schools, corrupt & insider politicians, and on and on. If you took “Berkshire Life” Insuance Company out of the picture, the only other employer would be the county jail. Do you know who is the largest employer in Pittsfield? The answer is the “City of Pittsfield”. That gives the Mayor a lot of power over a lot of people. I have a Blog page about economic development in Pittsfield:
    http://www.jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2007/11/pittsfields-revitalization-via-perverse.html
    – Jonathan Melle

    • Jeffrey Turner
      December 31, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

      What about BMC? And the Brien Center? The college? Does anyone here actually cite facts?

  10. scandals
    December 30, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=legc&ql=1

    Currently there are at least four (4) legal firms suing Legacy Bancorp for, um, “doing it” to their shareholders for giving the company over to Berkshire Bank.

    …possible source info for this site…

  11. F.C.
    December 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    Pittsfield needs manufacturing. First priority should be a manufacturer of humps.

  12. PITTSFIELD (un)BELIEVABLE
    December 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    In the interests of public service and just for the sheer fun of it, I hope Tim Farkas is man enough to meet you head-on in a duel of wits. Great points here on eco dev.

  13. Laura Gross
    December 30, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    As far as Pittsfield goes, there is a reason I pay more than I can afford for rent in South County. Education. In your pie chart above, the education piece needs to enlarge, Who will be your local workforce at Microsoft or Apple if the school system is sub par and there isn’t enough aid available for students to go to college (says the girl with 50,000 in student loans and a semester to go). If you have a kick butt, well funded school system then people will move to your town to send their kids to your school. A trickle up theory of economics perhaps. I moved from Pittsfield so that my son could attend a better (in my eyes) funded school. I know there are marvelous teachers in the school system, but I felt it worth the move.

  14. Jim Gleason
    December 31, 2010 at 9:28 am #

    Mr Krol presumed that anyone gave two sh!ts about what is on his facebook page to begin with. How arrogant is that? The BEDC was an absolute sham, David Rooney, who I heard earned $185,000 per for a part time job and did absolutely nothing but collect a salary. Time for action instead of promises on economic development.