Letter to the editor: Bodies in Balance decision called into questionSomething has me puzzled and concerned for the future of economic development efforts in the city, after reading news accounts of the Two Harbors City Council’s “special” handling of the Bodies in Balance (hereafter: BinB) request for $200,000 of city development funds to partially fund the new building off Hwy. 2.
Something has me puzzled and concerned for the future of economic development efforts in the city, after reading news accounts of the Two Harbors City Council’s “special” handling of the Bodies in Balance (hereafter: BinB) request for $200,000 of city development funds to partially fund the new building off Hwy. 2.
No, I’m not concerned that the $200,000 that was hurriedly approved by the council will bankrupt the city, even if the loan goes into default. And yes, I admit that I don’t see a small town fitness and therapy center having much of an impact on the local economy. No, I’m not against local government investing and being involved in spurring the growth of business, development and the local economy.
But I am quite concerned that our city council has opted to bypass the experience and the deliberations of its own Two Harbors Development Commission (THDC) to rush approval of the $200,000 for the BinB building. My concern is not the money, it is the apparent arrogance on the part of the council in believing they are wiser or have a better understanding of business than THDC, with its 25 years of successful development history.
And I am even more concerned that the council found it easy to brush aside THDC in this case and that they will feel no discomfort at all in doing so the next time they face a request to expedite the goal of a dreamer.
A few questions of our council:
What justifies hurrying council approval of the particular request?
What was the motive in tossing aside THDC’s more than 25 years of established procedure for screening and recommending approval or rejection of proposed development projects?
On what information did the council base their approval, since members of the THDC feel the data they received from BinB was incomplete and too scanty to make a decision?
And, since the news articles expressed a need to hurry the approval, was that sense of urgency based on the needs of the city, or the business owner?
Excuse me for digressing at this point, but a bit of history might be worth pondering:
Most of the council won’t remember when Two Harbors had no money to devote to economic development. After the DM&IR shut down the shops and roundhouse in 1963, continuing to cut other jobs as it could, the local economy merely bumped along. Husky Hydraulics was a major employer, but was moving out in the early 1980s. LaBounty Manufacturing was a start-up and Louisiana Pacific had not yet heard of Two Harbors. Up the road, Reserve Mining Co. provided good employment, but was involved in a decade’s long lawsuit with the state that threatened at every juncture to close down that operation at any moment.
When LP came looking for a plant site, the city was happy to show them space that the company liked in the Industrial Park. The city also applied for and received a sizable grant (more than $1.4 million as I recall) to loan to the LP building fund. Repayment of that loan was dedicated to economic development. THDC was created by the council to keep a watchful eye on those funds, to screen proposals for development, to recommend approval by the council for projects meeting city objectives, to recommend investment of city effort and funding for projects it qualified, and as much as possible, to remove politics from consideration for development efforts.
For more than 20 years, at no cost, without fanfare and without a default of city investment, THDC has fulfilled that mandate. By taking on the tiresome labor of sifting financial data, analyzing entrepreneurial dreams, deeds and schemes, lending their own individual expertise, acuity and acumen, members of THDC have saved councilors thousands of hours, months worth of sleepless nights and is a demonstrated success.
After that rather long historical digression, I again ask:
Where was the motivation for the council to bypass THDC’s proven legacy and rush to approve the $200,000 BinB request?
Did the council have access to the information that THDC states it did not have?
Is the history of this particular business so sterling that the council feels it does not require review?
What was “special” about this request that made it so different from those the THDC has successfully processed in the past?
The old adage “Haste makes waste” may or may not apply in this case.
The development funds were safely in the city’s coffers and not about to evaporate if unused, so we can deduce that the need for haste was the owner’s problem and not that of THDC or the city council. If that’s true, the applicable adage is “Your panic isn’t my emergency,” in light of THDC’s inability to reach a conclusion due to insufficient information.
Nonetheless, our council apparently opted to freelance this decision on its own.