Quote

People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Monday, April 07, 2008

But How Do We Get Employers To Relocate?

Craig Wilson, a senior planner with K.W. Poore & Associates, a Richmond consulting firm that "specializes in assisting communities with comprehensive planning, economic development, revitalization projects and implementing grant-funded community development projects," makes a brutal, but fair, assessment of the economic prospects for the Alleghany Highlands that, I think, apply to Southwest Virginia as well. He writes in a Roanoke Times op/ed piece ("Take charge of the Highlands' future"):
Recently, I completed a report on the region that paints a rather bleak picture and a challenging future. The people are wonderful, but the community is a fairly isolated region where population has dropped a third in the last 30 years and probably will keep dropping.

Many residents are undereducated, unemployed or underemployed. Housing conditions are poor, and the vacancy rate is nearly twice the state average. Several schools are old and must be renovated or replaced. Median household income is well below the state average, and the economy depends much too heavily on manufacturing, which continues to decline.

Under these conditions, it's hard to make a good first impression, and it's increasingly difficult to attract the new jobs that come from new businesses and industry locating in the region.

Here's your wake-up call -- unless the region takes charge of its own future, these conditions will worsen during the next 30 years. As more people leave to find work and a higher quality of life, one in four people left will be a senior adult, living on a limited, fixed income. Fewer people of working age means a higher burden will be borne by a smaller tax base. Business prospects will keep passing up the Alleghany Highlands for move-in-ready sites elsewhere.
This from his report sounds all too familiar:

The Alleghany Highlands has experienced a lot of ups and downs in recent years in economic development. The arrival of the Lear Corporation was heralded as a huge success story in 1989. Its departure early in 2006 with a loss of 220 jobs was a large blow to the area.
How many stories like that have been written in recent years?

Wilson's assessment comes down to these key points:

"The Alleghany Highlands faces four tough challenges: 1) creating economic opportunity, 2) offering a strong housing mix, 3) providing quality public education, and 4) keeping taxes low."

Seems right.

I've read the report, which can be found here: "Challenges for Economic Growth in the Alleghany Highlands" (in .pdf format). It provides several viable solutions to our problems, including the need to keep debt service low, keep bond ratings high, make local tax rates competitive, continue working on capital improvements, bettering our schools, and pursuing all possible state and federal business incentives.

I find fault with a couple of his suggestions - like the putting-the-cart-before-the-horse call to improve housing stock in the area ("the greatest number of housing was constructed pre-World War II") ("If a community intends to attract and retain residents, one of the essential needs is diversity of housing ...") and his call for more retailers to locate to the area (does anyone doubt that there'd be a Wal-Mart on every street corner if economic growth were bustin' loose here?)

Then there's the maddening use (on page 35) of the Virginia Tourism Corporation's bogus Economic Impact Estimates, a report that clearly represents itself as a "travel" study and not a "tourism" study, to call for more aggressive pursuit of that mythical tourist we keep hearing about.

Beyond that though, Craig Wilson provides us with a wonderful banquet of food for consideration. A good - an important - read for all.

It's All A Matter Of Perspective

The Roanoke Times this morning voices its displeasure over the "predatory" practice of payday lending - again - (in "Payday lending awaits its day of reckoning)," an arrangement that involves a lender and a borrower entering - of their own free will - into a contractual loan agreement.

Whatever.

I am on my way to the county treasurer's office this morning to purchase three Bland County vehicle decals for my cars and truck (I forget - they run $15 or $20 each - annually). They will provide me with nothing in return. They serve no purpose (other than to gum up my windshields). And, I'm required to make these purchases within a certain time frame - at the point of a gun - or a fine is imposed.

The predatory practice of payday lending? Gimme a break.

When Union Leaders Become Enviro-Politicians

A small minority of union miners working in the coalfields are employed in surface mining operations. 760 to be exact. Still, is that any reason for their bosses - the UMW leadership - to throw them to the wolves?

This is pathetic:

UMW wavers on opposition to mountaintop removal
The Associated Press

Huntington, W.Va. (AP) -- The United Mine Workers is wavering on its opposition to mountaintop removal coal mines.

UMW spokesman Phil Smith says the labor union wouldn't oppose a mountaintop removal ban as a long-term goal. Smith says UMW officials understands the concerns of coalfield residents who oppose the practice.

But Smith says the union doesn't want to abandon members who work at surface mines. Government records show 760 of West Virginia's 5,400 surface mine employees are represented by unions. And those mines produced just 13 percent of West Virginia's annual coal production. (link)
There was a day when the United Mine Workers top brass would use whatever means were necessary to protect the jobs of its workers. That was also a day when they would move mountains* to organize all those many non-union operations around the area.

A day gone by.

Now, the UMW is tied at the hip to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. And the leadership doesn't want to piss off those who got 'em where they are. Thus: "We're just not sure where we are on the subject of surface mining. We oppose it but ..."

The rank-and-file deserve better.

* Okay, a pun.

Al Gore Phone Home

Investor's Business Daily on the crumbling global warming crusade:
The Chill Is On
editorial

Were the [U.N.'s Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change] not dedicated to spreading fear, it would admit its climate models, on which much of the global warming madness is based, are flawed.

While pandering politicians, media sycophants and Hollywood dupes desperately seeking significance have lectured us about our carbon monoxide emissions, real temperature changes measured over the past 30 years have not matched well with increases predicted by the IPCC's models.

This is not some gas-guzzler's fantasy but the finding of a credible study published last year in the International Journal of Climatology. Looking at the data, four researchers concluded "the weight of the current evidence . . . supports the conclusion" there is no agreement between the models and the observation temperatures.

That means that projections of future warming are too high, that the entire global warming assumption is suspect, and that Gore should find something more productive to do with his time.

It also proves that Howard Hayden, physics professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut, was correct in describing the machinery of the climate model-hysteria industrial complex as one that takes "garbage in" and spits "gospel out."

The global warming debate is not over. Indeed, the debate is beginning to favor the skeptics. (link)
Empirical data -1.
Computer models - 0.

We turn the tide.

On Those Hollywood 'Environmentalists'

I poked fun at actor Leonardo DeCaprio - along with those in the media who wet their pants over the tiniest little gesture made by celebrities like him - the other day (see "They Don't See The Hypocrisy") after it was announced that he had purchased a luxury apartment in a building in New York City that was equipped with the finest of amenities ... and a solar panel. Making him a friend of the environment.

As a follow-up on that story, Les Jones provides us with a photo of one of Leonardo's other homes - a breathtakingly expansive estate in Los Angeles, where he lives alone. I can't tell, in perusing the photo of the many buildings on the property, whether DeCaprio has stuck a solar panel on one or not.

Jones adds this:

"It's a good thing DiCaprio has a Prius. Otherwise the gas bill for commuting from the mansion to the pool would be murder."

Ouch.

Leonardo DeCaprio - poster boy for the environmental left. Give me a break.

Absolut Issues A Belated Apology ...

... for this ad that has offended all of America:

From a press release:

Absolut apologizes for Mexican vodka ad
The Associated Press

Mexico City -- The Absolut vodka company apologized Saturday for an ad campaign depicting the southwestern U.S. as part of Mexico amid angry calls for a boycott by U.S. consumers.

The campaign, which promotes ideal scenarios under the slogan "In an Absolut World," showed a 1830s-era map when Mexico included California, Texas and other southwestern states. Mexico still resents losing that territory in the 1848 Mexican-American War and the fight for Texas independence. (link)

Too bad you're a bit late, fellas. I have joined thousands of other red-blooded Americans in boycotting your swill. Me, I go where my money is appreciated.

God bless the USA.

Photo courtesy of Quién magazine

In Terms Of Experience Alone ...

... this gal is far more qualified to be president than is Jeremiah Wright's protégé. But, considering certain unalterable circumstances (alas, the Republicans chose someone else), Veep will do ...

... for now:
Dan Senor: Condoleezza Rice Is Pursuing the VP Spot
By Mary Bruce, ABC News

ABCNews’ Mary Bruce Reports: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is actively courting the vice presidential nomination, Republican strategist Dan Senor said.

“Condi Rice has been actively, actually in recent weeks, campaigning for this,” Senor said this morning on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

According to Senor, Rice has been cozying up to the Republican elite. (link)
You hear a lot of blather on the Democrat side about hope and change and audacity and such (see "Obama is Selling ‘Hope.’ Should We Buy?"). Not much is said about the fact that Junior has virtually no qualifications to be president (had he not been elected ONCE to the senate, I'd be as qualified). Condi has, without doubt, more, varied experience than anyone else in national politics today.

I have my doubts about McCain picking Condoleezza Rice to be his second. Too bad. She is the perfect choice.