Archive for June, 2013

21-31 W. Church St. 20-22 N. Fourth St.

June 19, 2013

            The 6-19-13 Newark Advocate ran two front page articles dealing with matters that this blog has been pursuing repeatedly. The headline article is, Future of Newark: Downtown Buildings Await Interested Buyers by Kent Mallett. It covers the two centrally located buildings at 21-31 W. Church St. and the adjacent one at 20-22 N. Fourth St. The article covers the deterioration of both of these structures, and the hand wringing by the city with regards to their “future”. Owners of the structures tell a different story with differences primarily on the viability of the Church Street property. Both have been vacant; Church Street for the past year, Fourth Street for over two years. The Church Street property is subsumed/attached to the historic Newark Arcade as well as being architecturally significant from the Church Street side, Fourth Street immediately frames the Municipal Building. The Sunday 6-16-13 Advocate ran an article, Downtown Bridge Project Pits Cost vs. Appearance, also by Kent Mallet. The Mt. Vernon Road bridge over route 16 is to be the “gateway” for entry into Newark’s downtown. One “New Albany” style version even insures that commuters know there is a downtown thru “Downtown Newark” signage prominently displayed on the bridge itself! One article comment was that it would be a bridge to nowhere as there is no major downtown development/renovation (still the case as of this writing). The 6-19-13 “Future of Newark” article underscores this. Two-way North Fourth Street is to continue as such over the bridge, thereby reinforcing the essential route 13 north/south corridor. Church Street has always been and will continue as a main artery to the courthouse square roundabout, law offices, banks, churches and Midland. These two structures sit prominently on what the projected bridge will herald. The article also failed to make inquiry, nor get a response from both the Grow Licking County CIC and the Newark Development Partners CIC with regards their efforts to obtain “job creators” for these sites, the progress being made with this imperative, and their hopes for a successful outcome. Located on such heavily traveled access roads and so visually significant, the importance of these locations cannot be understated. As mentioned extensively in previous posts of this blog, the CIC’s are public/private partnerships with the public investing 60% of the costs (eventually most if not all). The normal business model is to have the interests of the individual partners of an enterprise always maintaining the top priority. How has the public benefited from these development consultants we’ve partnered with?  “Dan Horn writing for the Cincinnati Enquirer (5-2-13) reports that his research reveals that 9 times as many jobs were created from pre-existing businesses in Ohio rather than new ones (start-ups or ones lured from outside Ohio) through  JobsOhio.” (5-6-13 blog posting). Here is an urgent opportunity for the two CIC’s to validate their investment value. Do we get to know? Do we have a right to ask or look?

 

            The other story was Hanover Lil’ Bear Closes Down by Jacob Kanclerz. This is a sad addendum to the research done re: food supply within Newark City limits within previous blog posts. As a commenter to the article mentioned, there is now nothing between Frazeysburg and Newark/Heath. Within Newark itself, Save A Lot is closest on East Main, Lil’ Bear downtown, and Aldi’s, Walmart and Kroger on the north side. The food dessert grows but the unseen kudzu proliferating is the lack of choice highlighted by this blog’s findings. Kroger- no. 1 food retailer in the world, Walmart no. 2, and Aldi’s (offering primarily store brand) leaves area food purchasers with whatever mega deals have been struck between these uber retailers and their exclusive contract suppliers. These are inside partnerships perfectly in tune with the corporate vertical integration model – making the partners and subsidiaries the number one priority. This is a model that the state and locally funded CIC’s ought to be held accountable for, with the public at the top.

 

            Getting upscale developers for 21-31 Church St. and 20-22 N. Fourth St. should be a priority, an imperative, for Grow Licking County and Newark Development Partners. We test our school system to determine the efficacy of the public’s tax dollar investment. As another such public investment, the CIC’s should also be required to pass such a test.

Energy Jobs

June 15, 2013

           Along with the ad of the leggy woman purring “Do you own an oil well?” the energy folks rolled out an ad featuring a little blue locomotive (that can) rolling onto the tracks of a steel yard in the dawn’s early light accompanied by perky background music and “Steel, once a symbol of America’s might, now a symbol of our will. Thanks to the energy industry places like Lorain Ohio are booming again” (Energy from Shale- The Oil And Natural Gas Institute). Energy In Depth: The Ohio Project highlighted this ad in an article entitled Energy From Shale Highlights Carrollton, Return Of Ohio Steel on April 13, 2012. The EID website’s “about” page shows a bucolic rural landscape much like Rod Portman’s (with a red barn even!), and states that the EID was launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (snail mail contact is Granville P O). Now that we’ve had a year of being lubricated in anticipation of jobs and prosperity for all, the grease is beginning to congeal and the friction of reality has set in. Physicists all remind us that friction is a constant. A recent conversation with Cheryl Johncox, executive director of the Buckeye Forest Council, reveals that the wells being fracked are turning up more gas than oil. Gas is currently cheap. The little blue train that could ad may just as well have been run by the “clean coal” folks in that the background transmission station, along with all the steel making processes are powered by electric. Except NOT because electric generators are eyeing the cheaper, and more regulatory abiding natural gas for future  electric generation. A whole other story, I digress. There is no infrastructure for the gas transmission (to ship it overseas in order to drive the price up), so the wells are being capped. The folks virulently opposed to fracking have turned their sites unto the injection wells for waste disposal, plentiful in Ohio. The ingredients of the mounting waste is, well (without a right to look), mostly undisclosed. The wells themselves are for the most part unregulated and unmonitored. The state receives a pittance for out of state waste trucked in, but townships and counties where these wells are located receive nada and have even less say in what goes on there. Cheryl’s information is corroborated in a recent article (6-14-13) by James B. Kelleher in Reuters entitled U.S. Shale Is A Boon To Manufacturers But Not Their Workers. Almost exactly a year after the little blue engine that could got us thinking “Yes we can!” the paint is starting to fade and chip. Kelleher reports that

But state employment data, academic research and a week-long tour of half a dozen factories in Ohio suggests the shale gas revolution has been a disappointment when it comes to job creation. “The industries benefiting are more capital intensive than labor intensive,” said Tom Waltermire, the chief executive of Team NEO, the economic development agency for northeast Ohio.”

The EID article from 4-13-12 touted the coming of Vallourec, V&M Star to the Mahoning Valley and the $185 million investment by U.S. Steel and Republic Steel in Lorain. Reuters’ empirical follow up a year later (6-14-13) shows reality a bit different from visionary promise:

“The Vallourec Star plant, for example, will employ just 350 workers. Those jobs won’t begin to make up for ones lost just a year ago, when RG Steel closed its plant here and laid off more than 1,000 workers – let alone the tens of thousands of jobs Youngstown has lost since the late 1970s, when the steel mills that drove the local economy closed.

And some recent investments, like the $100 million Timken put into a new intermediate finishing line at its Faircrest Steel Plant in Canton, are resulting in fewer, not more, jobs. Timken’s old intermediate finishing line employed more than 200 workers and processed pipe and other products in 10 days, according to plant manager Larry Pollock. The new facility, built to meet surging demand from the energy industry, employs fewer than 30 and can process the same material in as little as two hours, plant manager Larry Pollock said. In the brightly lit and relatively quiet plant, no human hand touches the pipes as they speed down the line. Workers monitor the process at half a dozen computerized control consoles. “A lot of the old assets were standalone work centers, independently loaded and unloaded, very labor intensive,” Pollock said.

Data from the state’s Bureau of Labor Market Information tells the story. After bottoming out in 2010, Ohio’s manufacturing sector has added nearly 42,000 jobs in recent years. But the state still has nearly 110,000 fewer manufacturing jobs today than it did in 2007, when the last recession began. Meanwhile pay across the sector is going down, not up, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. Manufacturing workers in Ohio, for instance, have seen their wages fall 1.3 percent in the last year alone. In a sign of how the labor supply is far exceeding demand, Vallourec Star got more than 20,000 applications when it solicited applications for its 350 openings online. “You can see how hungry people are,” says Joel Mastervich, the company’s president and COO.”

Kelleher goes on to corroborate Johncox:

“A report in mid-May from Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) suggests Ballas [Nick Ballas, president of American Road Machinery in Minerva Ohio] has reason to be cautious. The report concluded that the state’s shale deposit was heavy on lower-priced gas and light on more profitable oil. Since the oil and other liquid petrochemicals believed to be trapped here were the big draw for many drillers, not the gas itself, the report raised questions about just how much demand the industrial companies will actually enjoy as a result of the Ohio shale play – and whether some may have gotten ahead of themselves as they invested to meet expected demand.”

The Bottom Line (and it seems to be a race to the bottom!)

Given the current zeal to outdo America’s global competitors in state public/private partnership, Ohio’s recent legislation enactments to keep these entanglements secret and undisclosed (until a decision has been made, of course), and the actuality that “The industries benefiting are more capital intensive than labor intensive,” it would be prudent to bear in mind that tax breaks, incentives, TIFFs, etc. made on the ostensible promise to create “jobs” instead produce enormous capital investments while laying the burden of infrastructure maintenance, schools, and security on the area’s residents. The actual folks with jobs featured in the little blue engine that can ad number about five. The steel pipe production shown is primarily through highly automated machinery, that, like the blue locomotive itself, are powered primarily by energy — something the energy industry is promising to provide in abundance. One interpretation of the promo ad shows all that energy consumption benefiting 5 laborers while generating a huge capital return. When “jobs” are promised, it should be asked whether these are for robots or humans.

Secret Democracy

June 8, 2013

            Gannet presented (and contributed to) a Cincinnati Enquirer article dated 6-8-13 by Chrissie Thompson entitled “Secret meeting provision for local officials passes Senate. Reporting for radioactive fracking waste also added”.  Quick quotes from that article:

 

“[Bill] Seitz, R-Green Township, this week sponsored an amendment to the state budget that would create an exception to the Open Meetings Law, allowing local governments to call closed sessions to consider tax breaks for new or growing businesses.”

“Local governments should be allowed to discuss economic development in secret because state governing bodies already have that freedom, said Sen. Bill Seitz, who sponsored such legislation as part of the budget that passed Ohio’s Senate on Thursday.”

“Municipalities often compete with other neighboring areas over new businesses and the new jobs they bring, Seitz said. Local governments should have freedom to make tax-break offers privately to keep their competitive edge over nearby localities.”

““Practically everything (JobsOhio does) can be conducted without adherence to the Open Meetings Law. Your local elected officials, who are also laboring in the vineyard of economic development, ought to have the same flexibility for negotiating purposes,” Seitz told The Enquirer. “The public, of course, will know of every decision once it is made.””

 

            The last line, of course, is quite memorable since this is likewise the case within any totalitarian regime (nominally “democratic” or not). Yes, Mr. Seitz, there is no provision in the federal or state constitution granting citizens the right to look. That freedom was overlooked by our founding fathers. And yes again, Mr. Seitz, the public eventually does become informed “of every decision once it is made.”