I hate to do it! The Mayor deserves kudos for getting a Massachusetts’ company to move out of a Massachusetts town to another Massachusetts town. I mean, usually they are moving out of state when they move at all. And having yet one more industrial location empty in our industrial park is tough. Especially since we’ve had the Technology Center leaving us, L-Com leaving us and eventually Enpro leaving us. Getting someone to come to Newburyport should be a great celebration and having the headquarters located here is actually quite an honor.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of things at stake here and it has to do with the environment and money. And as you can see from the vista’s in this view, the new headquarters are going to be located smack dab in the middle of the Common Pasture. This shouldn’t be a problem since there is already existing facilities which have previously been vetted by environmental agencies.
But we do have a problem.
The new company wants to expand the building to 80,000 additional square feet for corporate and factory use. This means that the Conservation Commission is going to have to have oversight and to provide approval. As anyone can see from this map, there is a large vernal pool to the north of the property that feeds directly into their area, and to the south is the Little River itself with a large section of wetlands. Joe Teixiera and his band of merry men and one woman are going to receive a whole lot of pressure from the corner office. They can snicker as they looked on when the Mayor trashed the Historical Commission but it won’t be long before they will be getting the same treatment.
The main argument will be that they are obstructionists preventing a large benefit to the city.
That’s why I gotta rain on the parade. You see, the city will get barely any benefit from this move. Right now, the city has the property assessed at $6,247,900. Regardless that the facility was empty, they still have to pay property taxes at the same rate as the residential. That meant that Valspar Corporation had an albatross around their neck which, granted, they could write off; but still it was a detriment to them. We, on the other hand, as the city, benefited.
First, the Daily News pushed forward the same simple minded headline based on an old dark sider’s perception of reality. You see, at one time, we had hundreds, nay, thousands of people employed at CBS-Hytron and at the various shoe and tannery factories. When these all disappeared, NAID used the reasoning for the industrial park that they would replace these local jobs with new local jobs. The reality has been otherwise true. As little as 5% of the new work force ever ended up living in Newburyport and since most are out of town, they couldn’t even support the downtown as they were too interested in commuting back to their homes in Bradford, Haverhill, Methuen or south in Beverly or Danvers. Our paper of record proudly proclaimed, 200 new jobs! Very few of them will ever benefit our city.
But wait, you say, “we will still get the property tax from the now fully-utilized facility”. Wrong, the Mayor has engineered a TIF (Tax Increment Financing Plan) that was announced in Friday’s paper. This means that instead of getting the full benefit of property tax assessment, we will now for a long time get but a fraction of those earnings! It will be years (if ever); we see the kind of income that we obtained when the place was empty!
Why am I being so mean? I have all confidence that UFP Technologies, Inc. will be a great addition to our community, but I also care about the environment. The Common Pasture needs to be preserved. The Watershed needs to be preserved. The wildlife and ecology needs to be preserved. The wetlands that will soak up the floods that will surely come, need to be preserved.
I’ll leave it to the city council and savvy citizens to understand that we will be poorer when they come which will eventually impact our schools and our services by bringing in less money. But my hackles will really be raised when the inevitable editorial appears in our local paper that those who want to preserve the environment should not be opposing this ‘benefit’ when they begin to expand their facility.
That’s when I’ll be asking, “Whom will be receiving this benefit?”