It’s everywhere – bumper stickers, billboards, press conferences, releases, and always, out of Scott Walker’s mouth. “Wisconsin is open for business”. Scott Walker took great pleasure at a stick-in-the-eye jab at Pat Quinn (who was not so kind in his remarks toward Walker and his anti-union policies) while touting the immediate success of HIS policies in luring businesses such as Catalyst Exhibits from Illinois to Wisconsin. Conservative pundits and Walker supporters are declaring a victory for Walker’s policies; but to coin a phrase, at what cost victory?
First, the “jobs” gained. Catalyst Exhibits will be moving from Crystal Lake, IL to Pleasant Prairie WI in a move that has been heralded by Walker as a harbinger of things to come as businesses begin flocking to Wisconsin because of our “business friendly” environment. There are several problems with this claim, especially the claim that this was all to Walker’s credit. Most important to note is the developer who owns the new plant in Pleasant Prairie, is the same as the business’ current leaseholder (as reported in the Chicago Tribune). This developer reached out to the Kenosha Area Business Association to negotiate the move – to fill his new development. As anyone in business can attest to – a move like this is not a quick decision. There are months of planning and negotiations involved. So sorry, Scott – there were a lot of people involved before you even knew who Catalyst was. Now the financial reality. Catalyst received a check for almost $500K from Wisconsin – remember, we’re broke, we have no more money. Here’s the best part – under Walker’s new business incentives, this corporation will not have to pay corporate or personal income tax for two years. That’s right, two years. That’s a hefty price to pay for a little over 100 jobs in a state that is broke.
The next “victory” for Governor Walker is the expansion money for City Brewery of LaCrosse – another $500K free and clear from our “broke” state (that’s already $1M – in case you were wondering). If you think City Brewery is a small, locally owned business, look again. City Brewery also owns Latrobe Brewery in Pennsylvania, which brews and bottles Sam Adams beers. It is listed as one of the largest “third-tier” brewers and one of the largest contract brewers in the US. Among the products they produce and bottle – Arizona Iced Teas, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Smirnoff Ice, Game Day Beer (private label for 7 Eleven stores), Milwaukee Premium Lager, and LaCrosse Lager, among others. The workers there are union, and in fact joined protestors outside the brewery during the ceremony with Scott Walker present(see link here http://lacrossetribune.com/news/article_06787eb6-51dc-11e0-ae33-001cc4c002e0.html). Sounds like Walker scores a victory here – more union jobs, expanded production capacity, a little lost state revenue, but hold the phone – according to Rep. Jennifer Schilling, who was at the ceremony, released this statement http://www.wkbt.com/Global/story.asp?S=14279468 , confirming that this expansion again has been in the works for a long time – and is in fact a result of Doyle Administration efforts. This makes sense, since one of the principal owners of the company, George Parke III, made donations to Republican campaigns (www.wisdc.org), but most of the line jobs will be union. Nice try, Scott – that is most likely $1M in a little over a week that you’ve cost the state, and with very little total benefit to the state based on tax incentives.
Now the bad news – ask Invenergy how friendly they think Walker’s policies are to business. This green energy company was looking to create a 150 Megawatt wind farm south of Green Bay. If you consider the Koch Industries stake in the coal and energy industry in Wisconsin, and their financial investment in Scott Walker et al, it is an easy connection to WHY Walker would want to make it difficult for a Wind Farm to succeed. But what is the cost. Wind Farms are clean, quiet, and very efficient. Let’s get a little specific. The average US home uses about 10,000 kWh/yr. A 1 Megawatt wind turbine can generate 2.4 million kWh/year – on the low-end, based on wind speeds. That equates to a 1 Megawatt turbine generating electricity for 240 homes/year. That translates to a 150Megawatt farm supplying electricity for 36,000 homes per year – on the conservative side. That’s a lot of money out of the Koch Industries coffers, but more importantly – a lot of green energy investment gone in Wisconsin – including jobs and clean power investment by an Illinois company. The company stated that the regulatory climate in Wisconsin is too unstable to warrant a long-term investment. Yes, they wanted to make a long-term investment in Wisconsin. Not anymore, and it sets a bad precedent for other potential green energy investment. All because of Scott Walker’s ideology via the Koch Industries pocketbook. Another loss for Wisconsin is Aluminum Extrusion in Beloit, which will be moving its 130 job expansion project to Roscoe, IL – just across the border from its Beloit plant.
Stoughton Trailer has received a check for $750K from the state for its re-opening program in the form of a low-interest loan from the state. The company plans to re-open and hire about 1100 new employees through 2012, after a peak of 1600 workers pre-recession. This re-opening is good for the local, and state economy, without a doubt. We should all hope the Stoughton Trailer re-opening is successful, and the employees make a good wage in secure, productive jobs, even though the new Stoughton Trailer will be non-union. But without a doubt, this situation is happening all over the state, and there are many companies and individuals that need the state’s help at this time. There are many of us in the middle class who, through the greed and amorality of corporate barons, need the help of the state and federal government. The fact is, Scott Walker is playing favorites based on his ideology. A search on http://www.wisdc.org/, shows the Wahlin family with Stoughton Trailers having contributed over $52,000 over a 10 year period to Republican campaigns – that doesn’t include any anonymous money given to partisan PACs in the last election cycle, which don’t have to be declared, and make no doubt, the Transportation Industry was one of Walker’s biggest supporters. And one wonders if that money would have been available to a union employer.
That’s almost $1.75M in just these instances, again, from a state that “is broke”. We should ALL have access to good jobs, and hold no grudge for the hard-working people who earn them. And that’s the point. Jobs for ALL. Not just the people who think and feel the way Scott Walker does. We are in a time when we should be beyond favorites. Teachers, Police, Firemen, Auto Workers, Parents, everyone has the right to participate in this state economy in a fair and just environment. We will be in dire straits should we play the exclusion game with anyone, and that is what is happening – with Scott Walker et al making the rules. Stealing the game board from a progressive state with a history of FORWARD progress for everyone could very well be the legacy left by Scott Walker.