GLEANING THE OCD REPORT ON ‘RAILROAD CARS’: IT’S NOT TO MANuFUCTURE BUT TO ASSEMBLE … CITY SHARE OF THE DEAL, IF ANY, WILL LIKELY BE THE DREGS
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, FEB. 11, 2014) — Sifting though the information provided by Office of Community Development director Douglas Clark, THE PLANET reveals a fact that many discussing the MBTA contract for railcars seem to have overlooked.
This is for assembly work, not manufacturing.
If the company that wins the bid chooses the Berkshires or Pittsfield to house its facility, it won’t be to manufacture. It will be to assemble. There’s a vast difference between the two. Manufacturing facilities mean investment, usually in the multimillions, for the machinery needed to produce components. All this business property is taxed, meaning good things for city coffers. Manufacturing in the 21st century requires a highly qualified, trained, and educated work force.
Assembly work, on the other hand, is piece work. It generally requires little investment in machinery or facilities. The work can be done by almost anyone, usually for low wages. It’s sometimes the kind of work than can be done by the developmentally disabled, people we used to label with the unsatisfactory epithet, “retarded.” Fortunately, we no longer employ that word, showing that at least some progress has been made in Pittsfield.
From Clark’s report: “While the RFP requires that the final assembly of the rail cars be in Massachusetts, much of the production may occur elsewhere. … [C]ompanies with existing manufacturing capabilities in New York may only do the minimum amount of assembly in Massachusetts as required by the RFP.” Those lines form the “smoking gun” in Clark’s report. If Pittsfield gets the contract, it will be for assembly, and most likely for “the minimum amount.”
Pittsfield wants to give away $2 million for that?
And what are we to make of the contract for the job, reported to be between $850 million and $1.3 billion? It looks as if the bulk of that work — the manufacturing — will go elsewhere, likely out of state. That would reduce the Pittsfield end of the overall pact to pennies on the dollar. Clark doesn’t identify the nine companies interested in the MBTA job except to say that “all of these companies are large or multinational corporations.” Translation: Pittsfield, if it gets anything at all, will get the dregs of this contract.
Why else are these companies hedging so much on their requirements? If they had big things planned for Pittsfield, wouldn’t it have provided much more than the sketchy information Clark passed on to the City Council? Clark, with the blessings of PEDA‘s Corydon Thurston and Mayor Dan Bianchi, could only write in his report: “Until a company provides us with specifics, we are limited in the amount of information we can provide at this time. None the less [sic], it is clear that this project could have an enormous beneficial impact on Pittsfield’s economy.”
Is it? “Clear” to whom? Just because Clark & Co. claim it “could” be a good thing we are supposed to believe him? The city council’s economic development subcommittee did, voting unanimously to approve Bianchi’s request for $1 million of your money. Clark’s report to the council has no hard data to back up his claim that this contract “could” be worth it. The simple retort to “could,” of course, is that “it could not.”
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THE PLANET has scrutinized the OCD-PEDA-1Berkshire-Mayor information, and we’ve gleaned these other pearls:
— Currently, Clark says, “only one suitable site [for the assebmly work] has been identified in Pittsfield.” That’s the 125,000-sq.-ft. slab foundation where Building 42 used to be. Interesting, he says that “to avoid remediation, the parcel would be leased by PEDA to the company …” There appears to be a bombshell here. “Remediation?” In this sentence, Clark seems to be admitting the major reason why, after 16 years, PEDA has been such a flop. Any company looking to build and own there would be in for “remediation” issues. What board of directors would let a company get into that can of “R”?
— The company would be given a tax break. But of course. Real-estate taxes would be phased in “over a period of five to twenty years,” Clark writes. The company would also be “exempt from the personal property tax.” Perhaps Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski can apply for such an exemption based on their decades of paying their taxes, keeping their properties clean, and not daring to bother city officials, an activity they accede to the loudmouths, the squeaky wheels, and those looking for a handout.
— Clark says “The amount of future water and sewer fees cannot be quantified based on historical data.” Again, an utter lack of information normally required to make an educated and informed decision on a $2 million giveaway.
— Clark claims an estimated “total local investment of $25 million.” He provides not one number or one line of hard data to support that claim.
— “We have asked 1 Berkshire [sic] to provide a more detailed estimate of the economic impact to the region. This analysis will be forwarded when available,” Clark writes to councilors. THE PLANET would ask: How objective an analysis will 1Berkshire provide, when it has a direct stake in paining a rosy, “moons-in-June” scenario, if for no other reason than to justify its dubious hold on the public dollar.
Clark’s five pages of analysis detail what appear to be adequate protections if a company moves to Pittsfield and leaves early, doesn’t maintain at least 100 jobs, or hits insolvency.
It looked like Clark’s hastily put-together report, however, was the best he could do under “hurry-up” conditions. To bulk up the look and feel of his pages, he attached 23 pages from 1Berkshires “show-and-tell” report given earlier, at BCC; a five-page sample contract; and seven spreadsheet pages of PEDA financials. It looks like Clark realized his five pages would look rather puny, and so, like Hans and Franz, he decided to “pump it up.”
The “hurry-up offense” with which the city has pursued this opportunity — one that loses its luster the closer one looks — recalls the manner in which Pittsfield has handled other dreaded “economic engines” —$750,000 for Workshop Live, for example, or $1.1 million for the Beacon Cinema.
Anyone care to guess when Dr. Marvel’s Wonder Elixir Inc. will be coming to town, asking for $1 million?
“The crow looks rusty as he rises up. / Bright is the malice in his eye. // One joins him there for company, but at a distance, in another tree.” — Wallace Stevens, “No Possum, No Sop, No Taters.”
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.