Is Luther Forest a waste of money?

Interesting op-ed piece in today’s Times Union supporting the proposed chip plant in Luther Forest (which is in the neighboring 20th congressional district). This follows on a previous op-ed piece that opposed the plant, or rather, the $1.2 billion subsidy going to the plant.

I’m sorry to say I don’t know enough to say whether the $1.2 billion is a good investment. By that I mean that I’m not sure how much of the $1.2 billion is government spending as opposed to a break on future taxes that would have been paid by the plant. If it’s just tax breaks, then that’s money we wouldn’t have gotten anyway, so I don’t see a loss there. If it’s taxpayer money going in, then it’s a boondoggle.

Today’s writer compared the chip plant to the Erie Canal. The theory is that the plant will create benefits beyond the jobs inside the plant. That’s baloney. They say the same thing about stadiums, and Jerry Jennings’ proposed civic center for Albany. I wonder if anyone’s figured out how much money has been lost so far on the Pepsi Arena — which used to be called the Knickerbocker Arena until it lost so much they had to sell naming rights. Or is it going to be the Times Union Arena next? I heard a local personal injury law firm was in the bidding.

The Erie Canal created benefits beyond itself because it created a new avenue for the (literally) flow of commerce. My pet project, a mass transit system for the Capital Region (funded privately and not with taxpayer dollars), would also create such benefits. The first op-ed piece also suggested mass transit.

If we are going to fund chip plants, I don’t think Luther Forest is the best place for the money in this region. Fulton County was once home to a thriving leather and glove industry (that’s what it’s called Gloversville). Those industries have withered, leaving tremendous water capacity behind them. There’s enough on tap (again literally) for two microchip plants. They have all the other infrastructure necessary. And while Saratoga already has a thriving economy, Fulton County is struggling and the plants would be a much bigger boost there. So why not develop chip plants there? Maybe because it’s not in Joe Bruno’s district.

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