Governor Dennis Daugaard joined state and local economic development officials to speak at the Brown County Fair in Aberdeen yesterday. Libertarian blogger Ken Santema attended and deemed the program a dog-and-pony show for corporate welfare. Santema summarizes the disappointing presentations thus:
- Governor Daugaard – Much of his speech talked about the energy tax credits that Molded Fiber Glass relies upon to run the plant in Aberdeen.
- Dan Thielsen, Aberdeen coordinator for South Dakota Department of Labor – His little speech focused upon the vast amount of jobs available in South Dakota.
- Joe Fiala, GOED – Joe was there to represent the governors commitment to corporate welfare. He didn’t really have much to say.
- Jim Barringer, Aberdeen Development Corporation – Barringer spoke a lot about the housing expansion in Aberdeen. Also said how much he loves getting government money for ‘workforce training’ and that he would love to get more taxpayer dollars for that purpose.
- Julie Johnson, Absolutely Aberdeen – Julie spent most of her time thanking the Governor for the continued support of corporate welfare in Aberdeen.
- Dave Giovannini, representing Molded Fiber Glass (MFG) – Due to energy credits MFG is very thankful to any source of corporate welfare, espcially Governor Daugaard [Ken Santema, "Governor Daugaard doesn’t really think the State of South Dakota spent a lot of taxpayer dollars on Northern Beef plant," SoDakLiberty, 2013.08.16].
Not present at the meeting were representatives of 400-some blue-collar workers laid off this year by the now-bankrupt Northern Beef Packers, a slaughterhouse that never would have existed without corporate welfare. Santema reports that, contrary to documented fact, Governor Daugaard downplayed the state's involvement in ill-starred Aberdeen slaughterhouse:
He really tried to play it off as if Pierre had little to do with the beef plant. There were no mentions of how hard his office (and former Governor Rounds office) worked to get taxpayer dollars involved in the project. Also absent was any mention of the EB-5 (green-card for investment) money that was used on NBP. Instead the Governor focused upon “how little” direct money South Dakota has invested in the plant. I guess millions of dollars amongst cronyist friends is “not a big deal” [Santema, 2013.08.16].
For the record, of the $152 million NBP has made go poof, the state's share in direct aid and assistance to subsidiary agencies appears to be $5.8 million. Putting a cash value on the trips state officials have made overseas to help recruit EB-5 visa investors is trickier, but NBP couldn't have gotten started without the $80 million dollars received through the green-card queue-jumping scheme.
We can quibble about how many millions in taxpayer dollars is takes to constitute a "big deal." But rather than capitalize on our public investment by taking over the packing plant and running it for public benefit, Governor Daugaard sounds content to let some big outside packer steal the plant at auction:
Daugaard said he expects an outside company will buy the troubled Northern Beef Packers plant on the southwest side of town. Doing so for pennies on the dollar, he said, would allow a different group to get the plant up and running and make it profitable. And were that to happen, the financial packages the state provided to the plant would be worthwhile, he said [Scott Waltman, "Governor Brings Positive Economic News to Brown County Fair," Aberdeen American News, 2013.08.17].
Pennies on the dollar... is that what this scheme has been about all along? Invest enormous sums of state money and foreign payments into a project that should have taken off but didn't, then run the place into bankruptcy so some bigger company can acquire valuable property at a rock-bottom bargain? Letting this meat-packing plant go for pennies on the dollar could be the biggest corporate welfare scheme yet in the NBP saga.