Whether tis nobler to win the hand of fair company by straightforward, above board bargaining, or merely to wheel out the local largess and leave the tab to taxpayers to be choked down a later point. Like former KC Mayor Kay Barnes did when she gave away the farm downtown and left taxpayers in the lurch at the Power & Light District and Kemper Arena.
Ever since, the mantra at the Kansas City Star has been something akin to, Don’t make ridiculous deals to lure businesses across state lines – especially from Missouri to Kansas – via sweetheart tax giveaways.
Which is pretty much what Topeka did in enticing Mars Chocolate away from the however many cities and states in what Saturday’s headline in the Star describes as “A Sweet Deal.”
Sweet indeed, but for whom?
In order to put the grabs on the 200 jobs Mars was offering, T Town had to cough up somewhere in the neighborhood of $9.1 million, including 190 acres of free land, plus ongoing tax breaks of every sort – out the wazoo – well down the road and into the future.
One reader reaction last year in the Topeka Capital Journal:
“So we lose Boeing and get Mars? Kansas loses an airplane manufacturer and gains a candy factory. Where are the good jobs?
And Topeka’s gain is exactly who’s loss? That remains unknown.
However, “Mars to close Missouri, Colorado plants,” a June 4 TCJ headline reads. True, they’re just dog food plants, but my hunch is the 121 people in Joplin getting laid off, wouldn’t have minded keeping those jobs and seeing the factory converted to Snickers and M&Ms.
Unfortunately that dog won’t hunt and Topeka – which on the heels of losing 300 jobs courtesy of Hallmark Cards – is touchdown dancing over the Mars landing. Meanwhile the Mars shills are blowing as much smoke up the town’s you-know-what as they can stand.
While keeping straight faces, of course.
“Incentives were not the driver,” a Mars spokesman told siteselection.com, adding, “The site itself and the highly skilled work force were critical factors.”
Sure they were…Topeka is such a confectionary kinda town.
And how much will T Town get for its upfront outlay?
“Mars officials declined to say what the wages would be at the plant or how quickly additional jobs would be created,” the Wichita Eagle reported upon the deal’s inking.
Now check out these laffer quotes from Mars:
“Topeka was a cultural fit for us.”
No kidding, after spending three months in Topeka last summer, I can tell you with some certainty that must mean Mars employees prefer eating only at chain restaurants, have a high incidence of obesity and little to no interest in the arts, pop culture or big time college or pro sports.
Mars spokesman also told Site Selection that, “Topeka is a town that is small enough to have a small-town feel, but large enough to still have all of the big-city amenities.”
Pardon my French, but what horseshit.
That’s exactly what’s wrong with Topeka.
It’s way too large to have the charm of a small town and way too small to have the amenities of even small midwestern cities like Omaha or Wichita.
For example, high school ring and yearbook manufacturer Jostens bailed on Topeka last year to the tune of 372 jobs. Jostens employees now get to hang in Clarksville, Tennessee, a similarly sized southern city that somehow doesn’t seem to me as backward as Topeka. Maybe it’s that Monkees song (“Last Train to Clarksville”).
About all I can say is, having spent considerable time in both, I know which town I’d rather live in and I’m from here!
2011 story announcing the win in WF Eagle
Mars officials declined to say what the wages would be at the plant or how quickly additional jobs would be created. Mars is a privately held company with more than 65,000 employees worldwide.
www.siteselection.com Nov 11
“The site itself and the highly skilled work force were critical factors,” Broadhurst says. “A site close to rail was a key factor. Incentives were not the driver. We are a privately held business. Being private, it enables us to take a long-term approach. This is a 50-year project for Mars.”
Mars spokesman: “Topeka was a cultural fit for us.”
Tilghman says he likes the fact that “Topeka is a town that is small enough to have a small-town feel, but large enough to still have all of the big-city amenities. It is less than one hour from the two big state universities, and Kansas City is only about an hour away too. It is a great location.”