Recently, an Albany Democrat-Herald guest columnist objected to the Albany City Council’s decision to assist a local business by providing a $50,000 forgivable loan that will allow the new owner to expand and add new employees. In return, the business is contractually obligated to stay in its Albany location for the next ten years.
The columnist accused the Council of “playing favorites” by awarding money to one business when all businesses would probably like similar assistance. Government at all levels has routinely provided assistance to businesses since the beginning of the American Republic, just as business has been and is a critical part of the foundation of government in our country. Our national rail network, for example, was constructed largely by private industry in exchange for huge land grants by the federal government. Businesses large and small routinely take advantage of tax abatements, low-interest loans, and other forms of subsidy provided by federal, state, and local jurisdictions. Most of Albany’s biggest employers have received some form of assistance from government during their time in the city. The local business that recently contracted with the City of Albany was offered larger subsidies to move to another location, not unlike the grants used by the State of Indiana in November 2016 to keep Carrier Corporation jobs from moving to Mexico.
Albany’s economy has been steadily improving over the past few years as new employers have moved to town and existing industries have expanded. Several high-tech companies have recently purchased buildings and are now employing people in good paying jobs. It’s ironic that as the guest column painted a grim picture of Albany’s economy, the same issue of the newspaper reported that Linn County’s jobless rate is at the lowest level ever recorded. I pass industrial facilities in Albany every day on my short drive to work that are advertising for new employees, and the number one complaint I hear from businesses around town is the lack of workers to fill jobs. The need has become so acute that the Council agreed to provide assistance to Linn-Benton Community College to provide up to $2.9 million for equipment to train people to fill vacancies in Albany industries. There shouldn’t be any need to point out the new retail and commercial businesses either constructing new buildings or filling vacant ones all over town.
Apparently, I live in a different city than the one described by the guest columnist. The Albany I know is growing, both in population and in prosperity. This is not opinion or an alternative fact but is something that we can and do measure. Most businesses in town are taking advantage of that shared opportunity rather than complaining about imaginary problems in the newspaper.