I try my best to stay out of state and national politics except when it directly impacts Newburyport, but I thought the Daily News’ front page was very telling. On one side was the New Tech Center, flushed with gifts (our tax money) based on a dream:
“What this (Clean Tech) center is doing is dreaming about what we can do. If we can have it manufactured here in our state, with people who have graduated from our high schools and community colleges, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
On the other side of the first page was the sad closing of the Lafayette Bowling Alley. They also had a dream, “…kept thinking, ‘It’s going to get better. It’s going to get better.’
Both though have to, in the end, face reality.
The biggest problem with the Clean Technology Movement IS reality. The biggest problem for small business owners is also reality. Both institutions have to face the ugly “P” word, Profitability.
Somewhere along the line, the government help has to stop and the Clean Tech Center has to produce proof that it is actually producing new jobs and new industries.
Somewhere along the line, small businesses have to produce enough to pay the bills, and generate enough income to create jobs and stay ahead of the inflation monster.
And when they both have to say, “There is just no money. No income” hard times come.
Just in visual range of our downtown, the Clean Energy Movement is in trouble. We have a wind turbine that only benefits one company and its energy output is a tiny fraction of what was promised. The same goes for solar power – it was very telling when the solar energy advertisement in the Tannery lobby was taken down. Alternative energy in the end has to stand on its own footing if it is to survive. Dreams don’t put food on anyone’s table in the immediate now!
Much more alarming, as we have seen with Frasier Motors and now Lafayette Lanes; mounting prices, inflation and the rising cost of insurance and labor costs plus the high cost of ‘keeping up’ in maintenance is killing smaller businesses.
I recently was party to a conversation with one of the owners of the Common Man in New Hampshire. This very successful restaurant franchise is only in New Hampshire and doing VERY WELL. They are most noted for taking a large barn and turning it into a sparklingly clean fine-food establishment. I threw out a proposal that to me seemed reasonable. David Hall of Hall & Moskow recently refurbished a barn that is very close to Route One at the end of the residential Cottage Court. If Common Man were to use it, they could bypass the residents and have easy access off Route One. The owners agreed it was an excellent plan and they had been looking with envy at Newburyport.
But they affirmed they had sworn never to do business in Massachusetts. They said that businesses are regulated to death, the insurance liability on barns in the state made it practically impossible to use one for a restaurant business and that the average community in the state was hostile to business owners.*
They turned down the offer firmly.
Taken together, that is why the block quote above is not just a dream, it is pure fantasy.
* Which is why whenever Newburyport seeks companies to come to Newburyport – they end up only stealing one from another Massachusetts community! These businesses have learned the fine art of maneuvering around our labor laws, regulations and tax structures while the average company in America would look with incredulity moving to this state.