Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rubbermaid & Iowa's Economic Development Politics

The Centerville story is becoming less about the Rubbermaid plant closing and more about the politics. The story from a June 15, 2006 KCCI News report:

...The Rubbermaid plant announced Wednesday that it will close. …

… Workers were told the production side will shut down Sept. 15. The distribution division will continue until mid-October. The manufacturing department will shift to another Rubbermaid facility at Winfield, Kan.

Workers said that two corporate vice presidents said the plant is closing because the Kansas facility has more room for expansion. …

… Centerville Mayor Greg Fenton said the community has a lot to offer and has other options.

"It's devastating, but I think we'll rebound. People will come together," Fenton said.

"We're always searching for other industry. That's an ongoing thing and we won't give up on that," he said….

…Last year, Rubbermaid talked about expanding the plant. The plant manager talked about what it could mean for Centerville. The state had awarded them an economic package for that. Rubbermaid never signed it. …

Republicans intend to make Vilsack’s economic development habits, including the Iowa Values Fund and its beneficiaries, fodder for some economic class warfare. Who says the minimum wage is the only battle to be fought over the economic divide among the blue collar, white collar and pink collar workers?

Vilsack and the Democrats constructed what seemed a forward thinking, aggressive economic development tool and called it the Grow Iowa Values Fund. Unfortunately, like many tools, it didn’t perform as expected and left a few too many Iowans wanting…something, anything to spur local economic growth.

Sure, there were some winners; Wells Fargo and their 10 million, which probably covered the construction of the spiffy cafeteria located in a building immediately across EP Tru Parkway and the bazillion restaurants in and around Jordan Creek. But why complain, people need to feel good in their work environment.

That is until you think about the fact that Iowans in Centerville, Red Oak, Newton, Mason City will not have a work environment or the paycheck that goes along with it.

Up to this point, Vilsack and company have been unable to demonstrate to voters that the Grow Iowa Values Fund is a necessary program that actually produces cost effective results. That leaves campaigning Democrats spinning the positives of the underperforming program while attempting to minimize the damage caused by the high tech bias evident in IDED.

Yep, Kurt Swaim supported Mike “Iowa Values Fund” Blouin and his work to push state tax dollars on high tech businesses, such as G-Commerce in downtown Des Moines, while a town in his House District with less than 6000 people is losing 500 jobs. About the only thing the Democrats can do is practice their name-calling skills.

In fine Lakoff linguistic theory, Democrats have attempted to tag Republicans with the term “cronyism”; however, it’s obvious that the Democrats needed to lay claim to the term before Republicans called out Democrats as the party of patronage. Whether it’s dressed up as economic development dollars or just the HR list for Workforce Development and CIETC, the Democrats are very comfortable handing out tax-subsidized goodies to their political friends.

I know, I know, Republicans hit the trough, too; but that doesn’t make it right.

I think it’s reasonable during this political season to ask all the candidates about political patronage. You may discover some very interesting information.

Not just a town in his district, it's the biggest town in his district...
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