Sunday, November 8, 2009
THE GUARDIAN could not help but notice the full page ad in the IPT this Sunday about 35 square miles of prime agricultural land about to be put on the block as an ENTERPRISE ZONE. The Coalition for Agriculture's Future paid for the advertisement and and did a really good job of defining the magnitude and boundaries of this effort.
Commissioner David Ferdinand states in a October 27, 2009 Idaho Statesman article he has been working on this for the past several years. THE GUARDIAN is always more than skeptical of things like this and is starting to openly question the jail project that would have run water and sewer line across the river to the "enterprise zone". The City of Caldwell was going to oversize the water and sewer lines at city taxpayer expense to the jail site. Now comes this huge enterprise zone project in the Sunday paper. Additionally, there was some talk of locating a huge sewer farm in the middle of the Enterprise Zone to service the cities of Notus, Parma, Wilder and Greenleaf.
Enterprise Zones typically operate with tons of tax credits, tax reductions, and outright gifts of land and infrastructure to businesses willing to locate in the ZONE. We have to ask ourselves if this is the new and improved way to get around voters in Idaho. Urban Renewal is under attack all over the state and the cracks are starting to get larger in their methods of bypassing voters for capital projects and incurring long term debt via revenue bonds.
The Coalition for Agriculture's Future is more than a little bit worried about the impact of this particular enterprise zone effort. They wisely and accurately point out that each acre of ag land in Canyon County taken out of production will cost our economy $9,000.00 per year. We have allowed a lot of unbridled development to happen in this valley and the thought of 35 more square miles ruined for ag production is difficult for most people to imagine.
The following is a critique of Enterprise Zones taken from Wikipedia:
"The general critique of Enterprise Zones is whether the system of tax-breaks and easing of planning regulations (as has occurred in Asia, notably in free trade zones of Singapore and Hong Kong where Hall was looking for inspiration in the 1970s) can transition successfully into sustainable economic growth as the Zone is wound down, or whether by special pleading or inertia, breaks and incentives remain in place to stop 'capital flight'. A persistence of low-wage jobs, rapid turnover of firms, little inward investment, or persistent subsidy to enterprise, would not indicate a successful transition.
In the UK, a Government-commissioned evaluation in 1987 found that from 1981 to 1986 the enterprise zones had cost nearly £300 million, but 2,800 firms were established in them, employing over 63,000 people. Taking local transfers into account, only 13,000 net jobs had been created; a possible reason why the Government began to prefer urban development corporations as its main vehicle for urban renewal. However, a notable success has been the London Docklands, now a financial and media powerhouse but largely derelict and with unsatisfactory transport infrastructure thirty years ago when a Zone was first established."
Canyon County has for years marketed itself to the world as the land of cheap dirt, cheap labor, and cheap housing. Are we now ready for a new influx of cheap high turnover industries with more low paying jobs for our citizens? More importantly, who will pay for the infrastrutcture costs for police, fire protection, schools, water, sewer, streets and sewer capacity in an area where none exists today.
We invite Canyon County Commisioner David Ferdinand or anyone else close to this to explain it to us taxpayers of Canyon County and how costs and benefits to our economy will actually happen.
We all know we need more and better jobs for people of this valley but is this Enterprise Zone the right approach and what are the details.
Editor note: We got a response from Commissioner Alder on Enterprise Zones stating that all of this is in the preliminary talking stages and to try and stay positive and this concept moves forward. We would like to thank Comm. Alder for her quick response to our inquiry about Enterprise Zones and the 35 squre miles currently under discussion with the Federal Govt.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 11:24 AM