by Rebecca Huber
Patient: Galesburg, IL
Symptoms: Weak economy due to job loss, lacking and poor community involvement, unable to retain younger generations, sagging population growth
Diagnosis: Life, but in poorer economic times for now
Long term prognosis: A downsized Middle America community that will survive, and in time hopefully learn to thrive.
Its always hard to stay focused on the bigger picture in times of trouble. The above kind of medical dissection on paper of the problems at hand helps everyone working with the patient to better understand what the patients needs are in terms of short, medium and long range goals. After a thorough assessment the medical team will formulate questions, make a plan and diligently work that plan to the desired outcome.
The question of how do we create an improved economy here in Galesburg comes under the long term prognosis or goal along with the following questions. Where are we going? What would we like to see happen in our community? Other questions that could be addressed, as short and medium range goals would be what are its weak points and where are the strong ones? What can be done to shore up the weak points and polish the strong ones?
An overlooked strong point: Galesburg is a retirement community for the surrounding smaller farm communities. Why not continue to look for the retired population that have more secure retirement funds and 401Ks? The revenue they would bring could help further expand various small businesses that interest the older generations, restaurants, hospital and other medical and rehabilitation services.
An older couple- friend of mine from Chicago whose dream had always been to own and rehab an older Victorian home found Galesburg their dream come true. They came on the train one day to visit and decided to stay. The reasonably priced real estate made their dream possible right here in Galesburg. I understand Rock Island, Illinois with all their Victorian homes promotes this very idea in retirement publications and journals.
My friends and my older clients like the ease with which they get around without all the traffic. Yet if
Galesburg doesnt have quite what they want the QCA and Peoria are less than an hour away. They also feel when the time comes there are reasonable choices available in assisted living.
Some other thoughts: There is no time like the present to take care of your health. The only thing worse than being unemployed would be unemployed with no health insurance and sick. So please please take care of your health.
My fathers family farmed in Fulton County for six generations. I loved hearing all the stories, farming with horse teams, gentle days followed by horrible winters and loss of livestock, the year the barn burned. Some years it took everything they could muster just to keep things going. They ran their farm like a business, which was very forward thinking for that era. Their five-year business plan consisted of two good years, two mediocre and one that would just go bust. Seems weve had our two good years, except it was more like ten. We all knew, or should have known there would be some down times as well.
I love Caroline Porters thoughts about local buying. It fits with the environmental organization Green Peaces slogan of "Think globally, act locally."
A final thought: Change is difficult. We never like it. We can choose to embrace the coming changes or resist. The choice is always ours. A worked plan with short, medium and long range goals can help us mile mark the long journey of change ahead.
GREDA's job is to turn things around
At an otherwise irrelevant Galesburg City Council meeting Monday night Eric Voyles $99,000 marketing plan for the new 350 acre business/logistical park southeast of town was unanimously approved. As the president and CEO of the Galesburg Regional Economic Development Association (GREDA) Voyles announced plans for what was originally to be a 400-acre park and requested that the city participate in funding this ambitious project. In the planning stages for some time even preceding the announced closure of Maytag, City officials quickly embraced Voyles vision for the park as the most conveniently available response to the loss of 1,600 well-paid Maytag jobs.
The city council first agreed to participate by selling $4 million in general obligation bonds to cover both the purchase of the land and "associated costs." Not long afterward as questions were raised over how these bonds would be repaid the city council opted to increase the local Galesburg sales tax by a quarter percent effective January 1, 2004. Initial estimates were that this would yield about $650,000 annually with $350,000 used to cover repayment of the bonds. One of the originally identified associated costs was to fund the first years marketing of the new business park at about $100,000.
The approved spending plan projects $12,000 in direct mail and $30,000 in advertising the park regionally in newspapers and business publications. Local media expenses of $4,000 are included with the bulk of that money going to a series of full-page ads in the Register-Mail. While all other local media are essentially donating coverage and promotion. Another $6,000 is to be spent on the preparation of brochures, mailers, maps and website. A "development opportunities event" is planed for September 2004 where " real estate agents, developers and site selectors [will] visit the Galesburg region and view available sites and buildings" at an estimated cost of $5,000. Voyles also anticipates expenses of about $37,000 for sales calls and networking with "allies" and site selection middlemen. Five thousand dollars are earmarked for "community preparedness" ó a fancy moniker for miscellaneous expenses.
This new business park is clearly Voyles baby. He nurtured and planned the project and is betting much of his political capitol on its success. Eric already reports that interest in the park is "high" by prospects and site selection consultants. The key to this sites attractiveness is its proximity to both Interstate 74 and the BNSF line to Peoria. While conceived as a mixed use development with some commercial and office development and, of course, industrial tenants; Voyles really is betting on this as a warehouse and distribution site. Hence the name now being used instead of industrial park, logistics park.
While the convenient highway and rail infrastructure is a large basis for Voyles expectation he also acknowledges that sewer capacity limitations in the area discourage any manufacturing process that is water intensive. An even bigger reason to discount the likelihood of significant manufacturing development in the new business park is the ongoing flight of traditional manufacturing to low cost areas like Mexico (e.g., Maytag). "Lets face it, the opportunities for large-scale traditional manufacturing locating in Galesburg have been dead for at least 20 years," according to Voyles. Voyles wants to discourage unrealistic hopes of landing the mythical Mitsubishi plant or its ilk but at the same time he freely acknowledges that his job is to sell blue sky. He has to sell the Galesburg area to prospects looking to establish a new business or expand or relocate an older business, even if that business is already in Galesburg. He also has to sell hope to the disheartened locals who already fear the worst. Eric wants you to know that our future can be much brighter if we just dont give up despite some setbacks.
The imminent closure of Maytag is just one piece of bad local economic news. Gates Rubber has retrenched its Galesburg operations to the point of near invisibility and both Butler and the BNSF have reduced local employment levels. We have also seen the closure of a number of smaller operations that directly depended upon Maytag for their existence. But the good news is that Eric doesnt foresee the Butler plant closing in Galesburg, just transforming into a scaled-down regional plant. He also doesnt see further downsizing at the BNSF.
In fact he sees the railroad as a key partner in the new logistics park along side Illinois Power. Both firms have much to gain by the success of the new park and potential is even there to expand local railroad jobs as distribution operations locate in the new park. "The BNSF has told us that the proper next step in marketing the logistics park is to confluence of rail and interstate as they are the major strengths of this site. We are studying the costs involved in operating various types of logistics operations so we can target those that are most cost-competitive here."
Voyles focus on distribution operations doesnt mean he has given up on attracting manufacturing plants to Galesburg; just that he has become more realistic about the size and types of operations that make the most sense here. He envisions smaller operations that are very specialized and involve significant investment in plant and equipment but employ less than 100 or even 50 workers but with relatively good pay and benefits. They would likely be suppliers to larger manufactures in the region dealing in precision metal or plastic components.
Factors beyond his control, like geography, are a huge frustration to Voyles. "Looked at from a national perspective Galesburg just isnt in the right place. If a company is looking to site a single national distribution warehouse we are too far west and somewhat too far north. They are much more likely to locate in Ohio When they want to locate their second warehouse they will probably view us at too far east and north as the Kansas City region becomes attractive. Its not until you get to the level of regional distribution that we even become a consideration and then the most common objection is that we are just a bit too far from Chicago."
"The state of Illinois is simply not attractive to many manufactures, its too expensive. State taxes and workers compensation costs are too high as are utility rates. And some are discouraged that Illinois is too pro-union to be seriously considered by most major manufactures today compared to the Sunbelt or Mexico. Illinois is just not seen as having the most attractive business climate so a manufacturing prospect has to have a really compelling reason to even consider this state. If they do look at Illinois and can see it as more than the Chicago-metro area I feel Galesburg is in position to make a strong pitch."
"Most of the opportunities we loose have nothing at all to do with Galesburg," continued Voyles. "When Illinois isnt excluded from consideration proximity to Chicago becomes the next big hurdle. That is why a community like Rochelle is doing so well with a strategy quite similar to our own in attracting distribution. Like us they offer good access to both rail and interstate but much closer to Chicago. As the Chicago-metro sprawls westward the proximity issue becomes less and less."
by Mike Kroll
Its been a year since Maytag announced that they would close the Galesburg plant "before the end of 2004," hundreds of workers have already lost their jobs and approximately 1,200 more Maytag employees are waiting to receive their final notice. Not surprisingly, many in the Galesburg area were quick to predict gloom and doom in the aftermath of the Maytag announcement, creating the very real possibility of a self-fulfilling prophecy. For many it seemed the Maytag announcement was a welcome excuse to give up on Galesburg.
Local politicians, at a total loss for any meaningful response to the news, pontificated and formed pointless committees while they waited for someone else to assume meaningful leadership. We garnered national attention as politicians from outside of Galesburg and even the national media briefly made our community the poster child for the "unanticipated consequences of NAFTA." Maytags abandonment of Galesburg-- despite everything that was done by the city, state and union; and while the plant was undeniably profitable-- is an apt illustration of corporate irresponsibility and greed in modern America.
And we mustnt forget our wonderful daily newspaper with its long history as uncritical cheerleader to big business and semi-official corporate apologist when the need arises. The Register-Mail has fueled the already rampant pessimism while simultaneously cautioning us not to blame poor Maytag for this unfortunate turn of events. The Register-Mail didnt just turn a blind eye to Maytags history of extortion, that paper championed every tax break or concession and lambasted the union at every opportunity.
For many this whole episode is reminiscent of the mid-1980s when the popular bumper sticker read, "Last one out of Galesburg turn out the lights." Yes this community has already weathered a similar bout of economic bad news but that instance was simultaneously more devastating and easier to survive. When Gale Products and the Galesburg Mental Health Center were closed an even greater number of well-paid workers lost their jobs, more than double. However, the range of options for those folks was also greater as employment opportunities remained high at Admiral, Gates, Butler, Briggs, the two railroads and alternative state jobs were available.
Today most of those options are no longer present. Admiral became Maytag, Gates is but a shadow of its former self, Butler has downsized significantly, Briggs is gone, the railroads merged and moved many of the jobs out of town and the State of Illinois is nearly insolvent. Its not hard to see why pessimism seems to rule the minds of many in Galesburg. On the plus side the Maytag closure has been much more gradual. The company had begun reducing jobs significantly long before the closure announcement and seniority rules meant that a good number of those laid off will be at or near retirement age when they loose their jobs. This is little consolation for those in their late-40s or 50s who are too young to retire and too old to make an easy transition to a new profession.
Our local politicians and the Register-Mail has made much of the great assistance offered by the Center for Manufacturing Excellence and the Education Technology Center; neither of which were here the last time around. However, the CME has been a white elephant from the beginning and the ETC offers few practical alternatives to the displaced workers. The available job retraining funds that can pay for classes at Carl Sandburg or similar colleges will truly benefit only a small number of displaced workers (many will take coursework while only a few will prepare themselves for a competitive replacement position).
All this being said, I remain optimistic for this towns future. While there is no question that the loss of Maytag will be hard on this area it need not be the deathblow feared by many. This adversity could actually turnout to be a blessing in disguise over the long term. Recent events locally and nationally have made clear that the long-term prognosis for traditional manufacturing in this country is bleak indeed. Even if Maytag hadnt announced plans to shutdown the plant they would likely have continued to downsize the local workforce, as is the case with the others mentioned above.
The emotional jolt of the Maytag announcement should spur community action in ways not possible if that plant had simply withered on the vine like Gates. The time has come for all of us to shed our traditional notions of the Galesburg economy. As Eric Voyles said in my news story this week, the day of the large-scale traditional manufacturing plant is dead! It is a given that the Maytag jobs will not be replaced with similar jobs and it will be years before the net employment levels return to that of the late 1990s. The population of Knox County and most probably Warren, Henderson and Mercer counties will decrease in significant numbers in the short-term but the population hit within Galesburg proper should be proportionately less pronounced.
The long-term health of this community is dependent on our rapidly broadening the employment base away from low-mid skill manufacturing and into white collar and highly skilled blue-collar jobs. Neither tourism nor a casino will save Galesburg nor should we expect significant outside investment in the near term. Those with capital resources must make an investment in creating or expanding business in Galesburg. Thee are a number of bright and successful entrepreneurs already in this community and they need to take the personal risk of a greater investment in Galesburg.
Those of us with less financial resources have to do our part as well. We need to make Galesburg a more attractive place to live and work. Quality of life is a worthwhile investment and there is room for improvement. Our schools, streets, sidewalks, parks and public amenities are pretty good but they could be much better. The best way to help with such things is to get involved in the community. Volunteer your time for a non-profit group or agency; serve on an appointed public body like a board or commission. Instead of complaining about the sorry batch of elected officials run for office yourself or at least become a responsible and informed voter.
Participate in the public dialog by attending meetings and speaking with local officials. The time is upon us to recognize that constructive criticism isnt impolite, wrong or evil as long as you are willing to help fix the problem and not just complain about it. There are just too many things that are either done or not done for no other reason that because thats the way its always been. We must reject such rationale and begin asking "why" or "why not."
I wasnt born in Galesburg but I have adopted it as my home and Im not ready to give up on this town just yet. One year ago I lamented on how my family had just purchased a Maytag refrigerator prior to the announced closure but that no other Maytag appliances would be in my families future. A few weeks ago our 20-year-old Maytag clothes dryer died and my wife and I decided to replace the laundry pair with Whirlpools purchased at a local downtown store. We bought in Galesburg because the merchant earned our business. In that way we all win.
On a somewhat larger scale we are in the midst of a significant remodeling of our home. Like my small business this yet another way of investing in Galesburg. Not purely for altruistic reasons but because our personal best interest coincides with the communitys best interest. Together we are doing our share to help maintain a small number of local jobs and improve the community. It may not be much but multiplied by 33,330 it could be a whole lot more significant.
by Bill Monson
While this issue rants elsewhere about the callous cruelty of corporate capitalism, let me ask a simple question. What are YOU doing to make Galesburg a better place to live? And don't give me any crap about paying taxes is enough. Handing over your money to politicians without demanding accountability is no better than flushing it down the toilet. Are you keeping track of how your tax money is used? Don't depend on the ZEPHYR or RAGGEDY-MAIL to watchdog for you!! No, it's up to you. Do you go to city or county meetings? When you object to something stupid being done, do you let your representative know? Or are you a bar/barbershop/ beauty parlor complainer?
When was the last time you examined a city or county budget? Ever passed a petition? Formed an action committee? Picked up trash you saw on the street?
Oh, I can hear you saying--it's not my job, we pay people to do this, I don't have the time, it wouldn't do any good. COWFLOP!
It's time you got involved. You live here. It's your town, your streets, your money. When you let the politicos, bureaucrats and litterbugs make all the decisions, you deserve what you get.
Yes, maybe, just maybe, citizen, you're as guilty as Maytag or the railroad. You think you're entitled. You believe the pap you see on TV about being special, about blaming someone else for the shape you're in. You hunger after things you don't really need. You're as fat in the head as you are in the behind. Avarice, after all, has become as American as a McDonaldburger.
Why do people on food stamps buy chips and cigarettes? They feel entitled. Why does a senior citizen complain about taxes and the cost of medicine and keep an RV out back of his house? Why does a woman drive an SUV she can barely climb into? A sense of entitlement and a hunger for "stuff."
Unfortunately, American society now teaches us to value "things" more than quality of character. The First Americans used to do it differently: a person was measured by what they did for others--by what they gave away. Historians tell us the great Sioux warrior Crazy Horse was one of the poorest members of his tribe. He gave away everything but the essentials he needed to live. What are your essentials? What do you do for others (without expecting something in return, that is)? Let's take a walk around a block in downtown Galesburg. Start on the southwest corner of Seminary and Main. Check out the ugly remains of a painting contest on the sidewalk. Are we waiting for rain here? Come on, hose it off! What about the sagging bricks in the planters? Is this what we want tourists to see? Keep walking. Check the litter south of Simmons. Go east, past the Discovery Depot, and turn toward the post office. Regard the trash and broken glass as you walk north. Nobody got a broom?
What do these things say about us and our city? Remember, this is an area where we try to draw tourists. Do you think they make a company or a person want to relocate here? Or do they reflect an attitude that turns visitors off--as they did me a couple weeks ago?
One hour by enough Rotarians could do a lot for Chambers Street. A certain association could do the same for its vaunted South Seminary. All it takes is the will and the spirit to do it.
What's also needed is a change in attitude--about yourselves, your town, and others. When you litter and deface Galesburg, you're fouling your own nest. When you sit on your butt and bitch instead of participating in how your city and county are run, you're a part of the problem. If you take, take, take and never give, how are you different from Maytag or any other corporate freebooter? If you don't respect other people or the town where you live, how can you expect profiteers or litter- bugs or graffiti guerrillas to do it?
If Galesburg is not to waste away, it has to realize that it can no longer count on manufacture or the railroad to exist. It can no longer pass the buck on responsibility for what the town is or what it looks like. It can no longer "let someone else do it." Its people have to reach deep down into their hearts and work together for improvement. Make this a place where people want to live--and businesses will come here and stay.
by Bruce Weik
How I feel about Maytag leaving? Wow! Thats like asking me what I think about Rush Limbaugh, or right-winged Christians, or George W. Bush. The whole thing sucks.
We aint felt much of anything yet. Wait until late 2004. It wont be pretty. By the 2010 census, we might well be down to 30,000. Frankly, I think we should hire a second city manager, what with all the good its doing us.
Here are some random thoughts:
1.We got no leadership, at any level. The city administration, the city council, the county board, and the good old boys, all seem to be stunned into total and complete ineptness.
2.Galesburgs real estate market has been propped up by 2 or 3 realtors and 1-2 appraisers for ten years. Its about to go into total collapse. If you want to own property in a dying town, now is the time. A million bucks should easily take the whole works.
3.Alcohol and drug use is heading up. This is not going to help.
4.Prices for goods and services are heading up. Shopping Galesburg is going to be a very difficult philosophy to follow, particularly with 3500 unemployed people. Why is it the consumer always is asked to make the sacrifice?
5.Buying $10,000 an acre farmland in an area that has limited sewerage capacity is a lame answer to a disastrous problem. We need to gather up some thinkers to help get us out of this mess, not some ringers for the good old boys.
When it comes right down to it, its going to be really tough. Its going to hit us from every direction. There is going to be a lot of misery, heartbreak, pain and suffering. But its possible, in some strange way, that some good might come out of it. Maybe this town will finally grow up. Maybe it will move us to meet our neighbor and lend a helping hand. Maybe well move from a town thats not all that bad to a community. After all, it takes a community to raise a dreamer.
by Terry Hogan
Recently Galesburg made national news. There it was on ABC World News. No, it wasn't that Galesburg had been named an "All American City" again, as it was in 1957. It was because Galesburg was representative, or perhaps more than representative, of what is happening to America's "factory towns." Perhaps Galesburg is the canary in the NAFTA Mine of Free Trade.
Galesburg was first and foremost a railroad town. But with the rail connections, and then later I-74, it became and was maintained as a factory town. Admirals, Butlers, Gales, Gates all helped Galesburg to grow and to prosper. Jobs, payrolls that kept customers coming to Galesburg stores, kept Galesburg going. There was money for membership in the Knox County Country Club (now Lake Bracken Country Club), and Soangetaha. Parents who worked in the factory had enough income to hope that college was not out of reach of their children. Galesburg was, in moderation, living the American Dream.
Some factories, like Butlers, even went the extra mile to help young college students, including me. Butlers would hire college students to work during the summers. It help pay the college bills for the students, and it gave Butlers a temporary increase in work force when it was most needed. It was good for both. While I attended Knox College back in the 60's, I worked several summers and even a few Christmas breaks at Butlers. I learned what it was like to work in the carpenter shop, the foam department, transportation department, the paint shop and a few others. I made export boxes that were bound for Vietnam. I drove forklifts and towmotors. I was an overhead crane "hookup man." I sat behind a shear and stacked sheets of steel that had been cut to width. I even hauled trash wagons and operated the incinerator on second shift for awhile. But no matter the job, Butlers gave me the opportunity to make a good income to help cover college costs.
NAFTA is changing much of this. Galesburg is not alone, although it may feel the pain worse than most. The U.S. is exporting its union jobs to Mexico where a day's wages is about equivalent to an hour of U.S. minimum wage. With a rate difference like that, even major salary concessions are unlikely to be enough.
Beyond exporting our good-paying union jobs, which have traditionally been the source of the Middle Class, we are also exporting our lower-paying service sector jobs. Look around. Many of our fast food restaurant jobs, our clerk and our waiter/waitress jobs are now being filled by immigrants looking to achieve their own American Dream. This is what America was built on, the dreams and motivation of Swedes, Irish, Germans, Italians, and Chinese who came to America and applied their sweat and skills to make better lives. However, those better lives were aimed at the Middle Class.
Today the Middle Class is taking a beating. Jobs are going south. Our old graphic bell-shaped economic curve that showed a few very poor, a large Middle Class, and a few very rich is changing. It is wanting to look more like a two-humped camel of the very rich and the very poor, with a diminished Middle Class.
I believe that the Middle Class is the anchor of our culture and our society. It is, by nature, conservative. It wants change, but only moderate change. Its members are successful and have a good life, but perhaps not a great life. It is doing well enough not to want radical changes that might cause the loss of the hard-earned gains. The Middle Class has a love-hate relationship with the upper economic class. It dislikes the show of wealth of the upper economic class, while aspiring to become a member.
With the loss of the Middle Class, our country would face the very rich and the very poor. The very poor have less to loose by radical change. They have less hope of being part of the very rich. This, historically, has been the pathway to unstable governments, social unrest, and strife. There is nobody more dangerous than someone who has nothing to loose. The American Dream is the thread that holds the fabric of our society together. We dare not let it unravel.
We need to be more effective at exporting unions, not jobs. We need to be more effective in exporting labor rights. We need to be insistent on worker protection in Mexico. This will export better living conditions in Mexico, and will help "level the playing field" of labor costs. We need a strong Middle Class not only in the U.S. but also in Mexico. A strong Middle Class in Mexico might become customers of the U.S. A strong Middle Class for both urban and rural Mexico may bring stability that can only be an asset to the U.S.
Of course, some will say that this is just a ploy to be a "protectionist." Of course, it is easier to denounce someone as a protectionist if it is not your own job that is at risk. A free marketplace needs to have established bounds on the exploitation of a workforce. Should we buy goods made by slave or prison labor? Should we buy goods made by child labor? Should we buy goods made by a workforce that is paid a near-slave wage? If the answer is "no", where is the mechanism to use our marketplace power to correct those workplace practices? If the answer is "yes", then how do we protect our own Middle Class jobs? Without a working Middle Class, the power of our marketplace will diminish. The unemployed are not good customers.
These are tough issues, and perhaps a little abstract for a town that seems to be daily loosing its better paying jobs. Some factories announce a sudden closure with a major impact. Others reduce their workforce slowly. It is the difference between stomping out the front door and slamming it shut and quietly sneaking out the back door when nobody is looking. Either way, the effect is the same. Jobs are lost.
Your politicians voted an experiment called NAFTA. Galesburg is paying for that experiment with its jobs. Maybe even your job. Perhaps you should find out how your elected officials voted, and are planning to vote. Perhaps you should embrace a radical idea - hold your elected official accountable.
"An eye for an eye" has been around for more than a few years. Perhaps it needs to be updated as "A job for a job."
Do some homework.
Write you Congressman.
Write your Senator.
Ask the hard questions.
Tell them what you want and ask them to respond.
Somebody has put your job and your community at risk. Find out who. Perhaps the elected official feels a little too secure about reelection. If you don't represent yourself, who will?
It is a radical idea for radical times.
by Greg Alcoe
What attracted me to Galesburg in the early 1990's are the same things that will attract new residents and businesses now. Reasonable home prices, a broad array of shopping choices, all the services anybody would desire. No one can say that about any town within 30 miles of the burg. Galesburg is a regional magnet for people seeking goods and services while still keeping a small town atmosphere. The burg will succeed in spite of media manipulation , but could be so much stronger if efforts and money were directed to areas that could truly help the town.
Unfortunately, back in the good economic times of the 1990's, the burg had been twisted and manipulated by local businessmen who, with the predominate local media, the Register-Mail (R-M), worked for personal gain in the name of job creation. Maybe it was desperation after tough times in the 1980's, or just plain greed, but some of the crap printed in the R-M in the 1990's would make goat puke. It continues today. Hopefully it will stop in the future.
Often, in the Sunday edition, would be stories that promoted a specific special interest that was to be voted on by the city council that week. The land giveaway that created the Holiday Inn Express is of note. State law says that municipally owned land is auctioned to the highest bidder, but the R-M heartily endorsed the backroom giveaway as a rebuilding of the eastern gateway to Galesburg.
Another gem was the touting of a local businessman just prior to a council vote on tax breaks cheap loans, etc. If I remember correctly, the businessman sold out shortly after startup. The promise of many high-paying jobs lost in the shuffle.
Remember the newspaper articles where the Economic Development Corp took credit for any new job, which they said they "created". I think the Economic Deception Club and the Republican-Males at the Register-Mail have damaged the burg as much as any factory shutdown. If you used the right building systems builder, had a nice suit, promised to create a job, or were one of the good old boys, you could get yourself a nice puff-piece in the newspaper and some easy taxpayer supplied money. It is a shame that all other Galesburg residents have had to pay for the shenanigans in the form of ever-higher taxes and fees.
The old industrial park succeeded because of a booming U.S. economy. The new industrial park will be a failure until the U.S. economy booms again. All the tax breaks and perks will do is subsidize a business that would have expanded into Galesburg anyway.
The burg has now thrown away even more money buying $3,000 acre farmland for $10,000/acre. Add in expensive taxpayer subsidized water, sewer, and road improvements and another R-M endorsed boondoggle is in the making. The chicken will be ripe for the plucking whenever the U.S. economy booms again. A suit will win, a builder will win, a smiling face will take credit it and the taxpayer/resident will pay for it.
The manufacturing jobs are going, going, gone. It's happening all over the county. It's the nature of business to seek the lowest cost producer. Whether it's Mexico, China, Alabama... Maytag and its ilk, Butler, Gates are going to where costs are low, or they will be out of business in the global economy.
Galesburg needs to promote itself as a service economy, a weekend tourist stop, and a good place to call home. Get over trying to attract business that is only interested tax breaks, giveaways and is gone, sold, warehoused a year or two later.
I've seen what real tourism is. The little town of Hayward, Wisconsin is 2,000 people strong, yet draws 20,000+ tourists for vacations and events such as the musky parade, the cranberry festival, ski races, fishing tournaments, and fall color tours. While there is much natural beauty in Hayward, most of northern Wisconsin looks the same way. The difference is spending money on promotion and events. Creating something that makes people want to come to your area. The City of Hayward has some of the worst water, infrastructure, and services you will find anywhere, but people come from 100's of miles to be here. Why? Because people want to be here to see or do something, they don't give a damn about an industrial parks, water flow, tax breaks, streets, shiny buildings, etc. A 900 square foot building on Main Street rents for $1,200/month and people do well selling t-shirts, candles, fudge, etc to tourists. There are many people involved in construction jobs. Many new houses are built each year. Why? Because people want to be here.
If Galesburg spent a fraction of what it wastes on unneeded infrastructure and business subsidies and promoted events and tourism, the long-term results would be huge. Whoever the incompetents are that try to run tourism in Galesburg should be fired. How could Railroad Days get so screwed up? Why doesn't the Stearman draw 10,000 people? Galesburg should be having Planes, Trains and Automobile events. Every other weekend, a tournament, festival, parades or shows. Corn, soybean, Carl Sandburg festivals; Knox College activities; anything to draw people who spend money that would support a service economy.
Back to my raging hatred of the Republican-Male, I mean the Register-Mail and why it hurts development efforts. If that newspaper would tout or bash all things equally it would be a tolerable situation. But endorsing the backroom deals, the puff-piece articles that appear before right before council meetings, the coverage designed to manipulate rather than inform.... It's about as fair and balanced as that republican mouthpiece known as FOX news. The worst of all is the R-Ms chronic bashing of anything Knox County does. I would guess that after the factories are gone, Knox County would be the number three or four employer in the area. Adding on to the county nursing home is a great idea, an asset to community, a lay-up job creator, and a needed service. But the R-M badmouths the idea. The R-M promotes spending millions of dollars on a cornfield that might, maybe, create a job years from now. Knox County should start flexing the muscle it has after years of media abuse by the R-M.
A twisted media outlet whose motivations are not for all the people but a just few of them has twisted around the Galesburg area. Spend taxpayer money to draw people to the area for events and festivals. Don't spend taxpayer money subsidizing business that's here today and gone tomorrow or even worse may never come at all.