Good News

A few days ago, the City settled a lawsuit with PepsiCo, one of the world’s largest corporations by revenue, for $20 million immediately and another $5 million upon the sale of property in Albany owned by the company.  The settlement brings to a close more than four years of work that began with an effort to bring family-wage jobs to Albany.

I have to keep reminding myself that receiving a large sum of money is usually considered good news.  My reservations begin with the 200 to 400 jobs that were anticipated but never created.  The economic benefit of the jobs went far beyond anything local government might receive and would have helped everyone from the newly employed workers to all the businesses where they would spend their money.  Manufacturing jobs paying family wages are very difficult to recruit and retain.

The settlement is, of course, a welcome consolation and should be greatly appreciated by the community.  I believe PepsiCo was genuinely concerned about their inability to build the Gatorade plant in Albany and wanted to compensate us for not being able to complete the contract.  There was disagreement over the amount of compensation called for in the development agreement, but the dispute was settled by mutual agreement rather than by an expensive trial and appeals process.

Albany’s city attorney, City Council, and a number of staff members and partners deserve great credit for protecting the community’s interests over the past four years.  Jim Delapoer led the City’s negotiating team and helped craft the agreement which made the settlement possible.  His compensation was never connected to the settlement amount and the relatively small sum he has received for his work is vastly disproportionate to the benefit Jim and the great legal team from Markowitz, Herbold, Glade and Mehlhaf created for Albany.  The City Council had the good judgment and resolve to approve this project at the outset and insist that the contract be honored by all parties.  Staff members, including the late Dick Ebbert who brought the opportunity to community leaders, were professional and effective throughout this project.  Diane Taniguchi-Dennis, Mark Shepard, Marilyn Smith, and Stewart Taylor made significant contributions.  Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist, Albany-Millersburg Economic Development Corporation Director John Pascone, and Bob Warren with Business Oregon were valuable partners from beginning to end.

Assuming the City Council chooses to reimburse the various City funds that made infrastructure or resource contributions to the PepsiCo project, Albany will soon have about $15 million to allocate to community needs.  The Council has already voted unanimously to defer any spending decisions for 90 days while they consider how to obtain the best value for the community from this resource.  Clearly, a one-time payment is not a new revenue source; and it almost certainly will not be used to fund ongoing programs.  Despite the difficulty of making allocation decisions, I hope everyone will remember how valuable the settlement will be for Albany and that the City Councilors making the spending choices will receive no personal benefit from doing so.

Finally, I would like to publicly thank representatives from PepsiCo for their courtesy and professionalism through the past four years.  There have been strong feelings on both sides about various issues surrounding this project, but the outcome was a cordial agreement acceptable to PepsiCo and unquestionably good for Albany.