In the news last Thursday, the Tooele County School Board voted to give The Romney Group a large tax break for its Lakeview Business Park. An article from last Tuesday mentioned that the school district was giving up too much and not receiving enough in return of the tax property split. Tooele County schools deal with a very small tax base and not a lot of property tax revenue for schools compared to other counties in the state. As part of the deal, the school district will receive 20% of the business park’s future property tax value for 20 years and The Romney Group will get the remaining 80% of the property tax to cover the improvements needed for the business park’s water, sewer and roads.
The articles mentioned the pressure the school district was in to submit to the shakedown, otherwise the business park project would not go forward. Local government officials talked about the economic impact the business park will have on the area. The jobs! The opportunity! But what about the other impacts on our community? Why do businesses and developers demand handouts from local government agencies to subsidize their personal projects? And when is it enough?
I know the inland port is supposed to bring good paying jobs. Lots of economic opportunity. But what will the job market look like in the future? Looking back at technology 25 years ago and where it was and where we are now, it’s difficult to imagine what technology will be like in 25 years. These jobs in the new business park will be warehousing and maybe manufacturing jobs. Paying $18 to the low $20 an hour. It sounds good, but these are not livable wages, especially with the cost of living rocketing past wage growth. I am sure these future companies will use modern technology to make the jobs more efficient. Eventually having machines, AI, and autonomous forklifts and trucks move the inventory around the yards and buildings. How many of these jobs will last and provide our people future economic security?
A lot of local warehouses and companies struggle to find workers for the wages they currently want to pay. I’ve seen advertisements for Purple, Cabelas, US Magnesium, Walmart Distribution and others that pay around the same rate. They are having trouble filling positions and keeping workers. Why? And what will prevent the new Romney project from suffering the same fate? Will our commuters really stop going to higher paying jobs in the Salt Lake Valley to work at the local business park and support the inland port in a warehousing capacity? If these workers aren’t working for the local warehouses already, I find it difficult that they would work for the Lakeview Project in the future.
Pressuring school boards to subsidize the Romney Project is wrong. It’s corporate socialism. The school district shouldn’t be forced to agree to the proposal without requiring that the new jobs pay livable wages and decent benefits including retirement to the future workers at the Lakeview Project. Utah frowns on socialism to help working people, but loves socialism that benefits corporations like The Romney Group. The Romney Group should pay its own way if it wants to develop the project so badly. Or maybe Josh Romney could’ve asked his dad for a loan. Give a corporation a fish, it will never learn. Teach the corporation how to fish and it will take care of itself in the future.
Jeff Saunders is a resident of Tooele City.