Friday, April 2, 2010

“BAIT AND SWITCH”, The Empty Promise of Jobs

The CFS-LLC spokesperson has repeatedly promised the community, in both her oral and written communications, “good jobs” if the rezone request is granted. Her “Planting the Facts” direct mail propaganda has even provided a detailed summary of those alleged employment opportunities – although she now denies that CFS-LLC even has a specific development plan. Shadow Wood Landing and Stratosphere Airport “are just a dream”, she now claims.

This is what developers tell communities like ours to gain support for inappropriate, unpopular development projects. Large scale developments such as Shadow Wood Landing and Stratosphere Airport, which this zoning change request is intended to accommodate, don’t employ local tradesmen, and don’t source materials locally.

The faceless out of state corporations, and their anonymous investors behind such development initiatives, are motivated purely by profit. They are not interested in “doing something positive” for the community, as the CFS spokesperson has alleged.

The contracts for major projects such as Shadow Wood Landing – with a proposed commercial area twice the size of Miller Hill Mall – are awarded by competitive bid to very large, capable, experienced construction firms with national resources. Such firms are headquartered in major cities like Chicago, Kansas City, Houston, or Minneapolis. No contractor in northern Wisconsin is even qualified to bid on an airport and 200 unit luxury hotel.

These large, national contractors have preferred, qualified, low cost material suppliers. They don’t purchase locally. They have their own equipment – cranes, excavators, forklifts, compactors, and pavers. They have their own skilled labor. They import all necessary resources, often including temporary housing for workers. They don’t buy a 2 x 4, or a nail, locally.

Frank Graves has said that “Bayfield could become another Aspen” by embracing this project. Unfortunately, he is right.

I lived in Colorado during the Aspen development boom, and witnessed the effect on the community. Aspen, like Bayfield County, was promised jobs and business. No local tradesmen were employed. No materials were purchased locally. Large, nationally connected materials suppliers established temporary satellite facilities to support construction. Some of these facilities became permanent.

Large regional real estate companies moved in and displaced local realtors. Virtually all labor and materials were imported – primarily from Denver and Salt Lake City. Family owned contracting and building supply businesses disappeared. The only new jobs created in Aspen were cleaning toilets, and changing bed sheets. Taxes increased exponentially to support the new residents’ service and infrastructure demands. The cost of everything from a loaf of bread, to housing, soared. Third generation residents, who could no longer afford to live in Aspen, had to move elsewhere. The bitterness lingers, even today.

Bayfield County could suffer a similar fate.

Don’t be fooled by this Minneapolis Developer’s disingenuous job creation claims. Shadow Wood Landing and Stratosphere Airport will negatively impact local farms, local businesses, and our overall quality of life.

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