Subsidizing sprawl

That government subsidies meant to attract large employers also appear to contribute to sprawl should come as no great surprise. If you’re looking for a place to put your business and a critical feature is that the place be cheap, you’re going to want land that’s as inexpensive as possible, architecture that’s as inexpensive as possible (what’s cheaper than a one- or two-storey building with concrete tilt-up walls?), and a bare minimum of amenities for your employees and their community (a couple of acres of surface parking should just about do it. Of course you’re going to locate as far as you can from an urban core.

Here’s Neal Peirce of the Washington Post Writers Group:

Of 86 subsidized corporate relocations in Minnesota between 1999 and 2003, involving 8,200 jobs and more than $90 million in government payouts, four-fifths were outbound from the Minneapolis-St. Paul urban core. People of color and transit-dependent workers lost out; more affluent, less racially diverse areas gained, registering increases in jobs that were five times that of the central cities.

The map of subsidized job shifts in the Twin Cities area, says Greg LeRoy, Good Jobs First’s founder-leader, resembles an “evacuation plan.”

Good Jobs First, which provided Peirce with his data, is on an excellent campaign to tie subsidies like this to requirements that companies receiving subsidies like free land or buildings or waived development charges locate their operations near transit or on brownfields or in troubled but inhabited districts.

As they point out, there’s absolutely no point giving a company a one-shot subsidy to move into your town if its arrival puts permanent pressure on your infrastructure that eats up any financial benefit it delivers.

In many cities, it’s a dirty secret that growth doesn’t pay for itself even if it’s not subsidized. So why on earth would a thoughtful government use taxpayers’ money to make things even worse?

(Via Planetizen.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s