What we really want: more investments in local-sized efforts.
Before Keurig Coca-Cola GMCR announced their new set-up deal in the state of Georgia, a Vermont business leader referred to them as a gazelles. Meaning they were growing and hungry corporations – big businesses that demand to be fed endlessly – always threatening to leap out of state at a moment’s notice. Some feed is supplied from Vermont’s limited VEGI tax incentive goodies and similar economic treats. Seven Days asked Frank Cioffi (head of the GBIC) if the State of Vermont through VEGI had the ability economically to compete with other states and nations. “Probably not” said Cioffi, but he supports VEGI spending. But why not stop buying into the gazelle corporate tax credits extortion racket?
Vermont hand fed the Keurig GMCR gazelle about nine million dollars worth of assorted tasty tax credit bits since 2011. Vermont’s Working Lands Enterprise Initiative isn’t high on the corporate food chain, but greatly expanding such locally targeted efforts may be a better way to spend our resources. The cost is lower; almost a pittance by comparison (fewer than two million in two years), and the local effects could be almost immediate.
The two-year-old program is a cooperative effort of the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets; the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation; and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Working Lands awards support grants and training to Vermonters engaged in agriculture, food systems, forestry, and forest product-based businesses: the working landscape. In the first year $986,500 was awarded; this year, with a slight increase, $1.1 million will be channeled directly to 37 farm and forestry projects scattered throughout Vermont. The funds provided are being used for a variety of projects, including a computerized weight data and tracking system for livestock, equipment to expand production at a goat farm,a portable sawmill and materials for solar-assisted lumber kiln.
And those being helped are definitely not corporate gazelles. In Greensboro, an apple orchard owner who applied for and received $20,000 to create an on-farm processing facility remarked,
“It’s not incredibly glamorous, (but) it’s setting the stage for the next 10 years,” he said. “It’ll really make us much more viable in terms of cash flow.”
And just for scale, here is a look at what things are like for one corporate gazelle: in 2012 Keurig GMCR gave their then-new CEO a onetime signing bonus of $600,000 in addition to roughly $3 million in stock. Also they kicked in $500,000 to relocate him to Vermont.
Who do you want to spend Vermont’s money on?