VAGABOND CORPORATIONS The mantra for Republican governors and lawmakers is “We must create jobs.” The strategy du jour is a series of tax breaks for corporations, tax cuts for businesses and their wealthy owners and shareholders, and incentives and subsidies. In extremely tight budgetary times, Republican-controlled legislatures miraculously found funds for corporations while cutting programs for education and the poor, elderly and infirm.
After all, corporations create jobs. They and our wealthiest citizens have no obligation other than creating jobs and making a profit. While they pump millions into lobbying state lawmakers, the mega-corporations have no loyalty to their communities, states or even this nation. They don’t hesitate to make layoffs or even move facilities if profits or stock prices can improve elsewhere.
In any other era, such actions would be considered unpatriotic or even treasonous, but today, it’s simply seen as good business.
The sick, elderly and handicapped have no powerful lobbyists. They don’t create jobs. Their programs, services and benefits are derided as entitlements, while corporations are rewarded with subsidies and incentives. The sick, elderly and handicapped are stuck in the communities in which they live until they die. In this new era of job creation, they have no value.
The corporations win the budget wars—the weakest of our society are collateral damage, sacrifices on the altar of progress. Businesses are courted. The sick, elderly and handicapped are told not to complain or they will be seen as selfish, lazy and unpatriotic.
With nearly every state, county and city wanting to create jobs, a plethora of incentives is offered to corporations that promise new jobs. The competition between regions has become fierce, and it has created a new breed of vagabond corporations.
These businesses are attracted by the best deals possible and with the fewest strings attached. They try to limit their capital investments. They stretch out their commitments to create jobs as long as possible, while collecting as much of the money upfront as possible.
Clearwire is a vagabond corporation. It established a customer call center in Santa Rosa County in 2007 with 20 employees and a projection of creating 300 jobs over a three-year period, which it surpassed in two years.
In August 2010, it announced it would be doubling its workforce and was given $2 million for the expansion. Within months of the announcement and receiving the funds, Clearwire was laying off 15 percent of its work force around the country as it battled a serious cash crunch.
Last week, it announced that it was contracting out the call center to TeleTech Holdings and Clearwire would be giving the $2 million back to the state of Florida. The company got money when it needed from the state, and later it was able to spin off the call centers and its employees and get enough funds in the deal to pay back the state.
TeleTech says it will retain the workers, but it’s under no obligation to expand or even stay in Milton. Clearwire can move on to bigger and better incentives and tax cuts, less than a year after it was heralded as Santa Rosa County’s largest employer.
This area needs jobs. Vision 2015 was created to attract them. The Florida Legislature has given us $30 million over the next three years to help make it happen. Let’s be sure those businesses we attract and help grow care as much about this community as we all do.