Last Updated on April 22, 2020 by Guest Column from Dave Kitchell
SOURCE: Guest column from former Logansport Mayor Dave Kitchell
The current situation we face in Cass County is an opportunity for a teachable moment on several levels.
Tyson’s temporary closure, along with more than a half dozen other meat processing plants nationwide, should concern every elected official involved directly or indirectly with economic development. With coronavirus cases in Cass surpassing those in Howard and Tippecanoe counties — both much larger than Cass — we should be working with our largest employer to support employee testing and equipment. To date, more than a dozen employees have the virus.
While several of us have been busy opposing WSP, we immediately need to work with our largest employer, our largest utility consumer and probably our largest corporate supporter of the community.While this has direct impact in our community, it also has an impact on our national food chain which is already compromised by the virus impact. It will likely make protein our next scarcity. We also can’t afford to have a coronavirus impact on this processing plant similar to the Smithfield plant in South Dakota.
As for WSP, to be fair, County Economic Development Director Christy Householder and Jim Sailors have worked diligently to bring economic development projects to our community. Regardless of community support for wind energy, WSP or other projects, they have advanced them for community approval or disapproval.
Personally, even without the environmental controversies surrounding this project, I would not support it because the incentives are far too great for the salaries and tax impact we would receive in return. If it were such a great economic development plum, others would have picked it by now. The TIF funds projected for WSP would be better spent on extending water and sewer lines from Clymers to Logansport, including the Unger Addition. With that kind of project, or the extension of water lines along Potawatomi Road where a tragic fire claimed several members of a family, Cass County taxpayers would realize far greater benefit. They likely will be paying higher property taxes to back up redevelopment bonds anyway.I also am concerned that even if the incentive package is approved, state and federal regulations are not the strongest to protect Logansport and Cass County. Moreover, plants have a way of expanding into the future, adding to the emissions blown into the skies, and the resulting fallout into the Wabash and Eel rivers, over every school playground and farm field. And what if WSP goes out of business? Will they be responsible for any clean-up?
We’ve taken three steps forward with the renovation of the Y, the new cancer center and the shutdown of LMU’s coal plant. But we would be taking a huge public health step backward if this is approved. If this would move forward, I suspect many of us would sign petitions remonstrating bond issues for WSP. That’s not common in our community, but our community is savvy to the potential health impact that would live much longer than the current generation of public officials and Cass County residents.
One of the things Christy, Jim and our former state legislators did cooperatively was support our community’s application for a federal opportunity zone. While Gov.Holcomb has made some great decisions, one of his worst was rejecting our city/county application for the designation and permitting nearly three dozen in Marion County. If he had, investment money for the county and the south side of Logansport would be borne by private investors and the federal government. Many city, county and LMU resources would not be necessary to attract new plants as large or larger than WSP, with wages above WSP’s or higher.
Despite that, we’re not that desperate to add a plant like this.
Let’s work with the Fortune 500 company we already have and not spend a fortune on a company that may never have 500 employees in our community.