This is written on the morning of one of the great days in America, Election Day. The politicking is done. The decisions are upon us. It's a great privilege to choose who shall be given the temporary power to govern, and what rules shall be in place for all. Say what you will about America. It's one terrific country.
The newspaper has yet to comment on the year's biggest economic announcement, the expansion of Ventana Medical Systems in Oro Valley. The numbers are big — $181 million in investment over a five-year period, the creation of up to 500 new good-paying jobs, an estimated long-term economic impact of $640 million. Wow.
The incentive numbers are big, too. State, county and town governments are providing Ventana assistance — in the form of federal stimulus funds for job training, property reclassification for the purpose of taxation, and forgiveness of parts of development fees. Those dollars given, and dollars not collected by governments, add up to some $13 million over a 10-year period. A lot of money, especially in a time when governments are strapped.
Should these incentives have been provided to Roche, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, and to Ventana, already a powerhouse in the economy?
Yes, we believe, for several reasons.
Above all, the expansion means more good-paying jobs for people who buy goods, services and houses in our communities. Don't forget that. Directly, Ventana won't generate the sales, and sales tax revenue, our communities need to pay for goods and services. Their employees spend the money, and pay the taxes. "Together, we can really help drive the economy," Ventana president Hany Massarany said. It's so true.
We are housing-dependent communities. Housing prices have been rocked here, and everywhere. Declining home values are a threat to economic well-being, as a collective and as individuals. So, when a major employer decides to create 500 new jobs, we should all rejoice. The value of our homes is at least stabilizing, and eventually shall appreciate.
Here's another reason incentives must be supported.
If we don't offer them, someone else will.
Last week, reporter Patrick McNamara detailed some of the information from requested e-mails that had Ginovus, the company that represented Roche / Ventana in its site selection process, telling local officials our incentives weren't competitive with those of communities such as Indianapolis, which at one point was able to put three times — three times! — the incentives Arizona placed before the companies.
Eventually, local governments put together the best deal they could, and it worked.
Incentives to industry may be distasteful to some. Certainly, direct public benefit must be demonstrated whenever possible. Still, incentives are a fact of modern economic development. If we accept as much, and recognize the greater benefit, we can compete.
A few points about all of this:
• There's got to be at least a little conflict on the part of Republicans in office who have consistently panned the "failed stimulus package." Gov. Jan Brewer is putting up something like $3 million in "failed stimulus package" money for Ventana to train workers. It's bound to actually "stimulate" the economy, in comparison to some other decisions made with that money. Hey _ maybe that stimulus deal wasn't so bad after all;
• Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities stepped up to help make this happen. TREO has had its critics in the Northwest, and relations have been cordial if not always warm between the economic development group and Oro Valley (and with Marana, too). On this one, though, behind the scenes, TREO was an important player, lauded by Massarany and others;
• People inside Oro Valley government say there's a new, pro-business attitude in the community. Here's evidence for it.
Of course, this all began before the last election, and the previous administration and council members have been supportive of Ventana expansion. That must be acknowledged. Special praise has been given to Councilman Barry Gillaspie, a key transitionary figure across the springtime votes, for keeping the deal alive. He deserves credit. So does everyone else within government, and on the council.
Everyone must remember that towns either grow, or they recede. There's no standing still. Growth in the bioscience world is the envy of every modern economy in this country. There's no way around it — Ventana's expansion is a real gain for Oro Valley, the Northwest and Pima County.