Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Akron's REAL Good Year

Keeping the company here for at least 20 years: $30 million dollars.
Building a garage for 2900 workers and untold shoppers: $20 million dollars.
Keeping Akron the Rubber City: Priceless.

As expected Goodyear Tire & Rubber, flanked by just about every Don, Ted and Russ politico between South High here and South High in Columbus, announced it will stay in Akron thanks to a generous incentive package worth about $50 million in forgiven state taxes and loans with great rates, on top of plans to launch what approaches a one billion dollar redevelopment plan to build a new world headquarters, renovate the existing technical center and build Akron Riverwalk, an ambitious mix of retail in east Akron.

The collective year-long breath-holding can now cease. The giant that Seiberling built will remain on the banks of East Market and Martha in some form or another, retaining our image as the Rubber City even though most of the rubber barons left for warmer and greener pastures decades ago.

The questions about the deal are legitimate; as Council's John Conti is quick to point out there are plenty of states and municipalities looking askance these days at corporate welfare packages. In New York, for example, hundreds of such job-protecting job deals are under red flags with the discovery the jobs never materialized even after the tax breaks did; my own experience with Anchor-Hocking in West Virginia nearly 20 years ago (the state sued to keep machinery in a soon-to-be abandoned Clarksburg-area plant and won) was an early round in the war of politicians hungry to keep jobs at home getting snookered by companies who didn't keep their word.

The difference in Akron, however, is the tradition Goodyear holds over us; since 1898 the company founded by namesake Charles and built by the Seiberlings has steadfastly called this place home, even after the Firestone's left for California vineyards and Nashville; the Goodrich legacy is name only after that company even picked up what was left in Richfield and took flight to North Carolina; O'Neil doesn't even stick around as a department store downtown. Even after the Seiberling clan lost control of Goodyear the company called Akron home, and Akron has come to depend on it.

Rubber may grow on Indonesian trees but it also flows in our blood. Today's announcement is more than confirmation our money talks; the message just as strong, just as true, just as loud is that we take care of blood first. Other companies would have been fine working a deal for a new corporate campus near an airport and a golf course but Goodyear's rebuilding includes neighborhood development, which makes this deal unique. It's not just about keeping the headquarters and R&D center, it's about keeping the 'hood a place where we want to live. Using the power of Goodyear's corporate relocation decision to leverage improvements to Akron's neighborhoods is a deal too good to pass up.

It's the kind of deal we should consider priceless.

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