The beginning of the conversation
July 28, 2011 —
There is no question that job creation must take a prominent place in any discussion of what businesses or industries it might make sense to promote in our area—or indeed any area. But there are other factors that must be weighed as well, and it seems to us that, all too often, the “jobs” card is played as a kind of trump designed to shut down discussion of the pros and cons of any particular business development.
We’ve seen it happen with regard to casinos, in which case it is used as an excuse to brush off not only environmental damage but factors such as infrastructure costs, social damage and requirements for an expanded criminal justice system. We are seeing it with regard to natural gas drilling, with its environmental and social costs, stress on roads and emergency response systems, conflicts with traditional economic mainstays like tourism and so forth.
We absolutely concede the importance of providing jobs, but we believe that the conversation should only begin, not end, with the contention that such-and-such a business will bring in a certain number of jobs. Other questions that need to be asked are: How high is the quality of the jobs in terms of pay and benefits, and will they go to county residents? Are there alternative industries or businesses that could be attracted that would provide higher quality jobs beyond the construction phrase, and employ in-area workers over the long haul? And even if a business actually does bring in a certain number of permanent jobs, will there be long-term costs to infrastructure, social fabric, environment and existing industries that could, in the long run, more than offset any benefit from short-term job creation?
There is even a question as to whether the promised jobs will actually be delivered. As pointed out in a couple of recent letters, the number of jobs promised related to the Millennium Pipeline was 17; the current number of jobs is 0. Similarly, the Monticello Motor Club was supposed to have created 25 jobs. The actual number is eight.
But if a business provides any jobs at all, isn’t that better than nothing? Well, maybe it’s better than nothing if the only alternative is nothing. But that’s not the case: we can also proactively seek to encourage businesses or industries that can be shown to provide as many or jobs of higher quality, while fitting in with a sustainable model that provides less stress on the environment and human infrastructure.