Open Letter to Alderman Kris Povlsen, 12/1

Mr. Povlsen:

At last Monday’s City Council meeting, when the Council voted to approve tax abatements and fee waivers for the newest 3M project in town (“Project Oak”), you commented that some people misperceive such incentives as corporate welfare, whereas you would encourage us to think of these incentives as investments in our future.

Mr. Povlsen, such incentives might be either one. You know me as a person who has been opposing the new DeKalb Business Center warehouse project in a big way, yet you’ve not heard a peep from me or any of the Smart Growth-DeKalb group regarding Oak/3M. Why is that? It’s because we know the difference between a good deal and a bad one.

With all the “homework” that I’ve done on the logistics industry in the past few months, I’ve reached the conclusion that the city has indeed given away too much on occasion, especially when it comes to warehouse and distribution. With growth in this industry running 12-15% per year in the region and speculators grabbing up all the land they can in spite of a current vacancy rate averaging 17%, these projects should give us pause for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the absurdity of give-aways under these circumstances.

Nevertheless, I believe that tax incentives might have a place in achieving our long-term objectives as concerns our industrial tax base and Comprehensive Plan, and I believe that the Oak/3M project meets several criteria or at least preferences when it comes to those ends:

• The scope of the project will not overwhelm our current infrastructure;
• They are using existing industrial space instead of contributing to sprawl;
• 3M is a proven “good neighbor” in DeKalb; and
• The newest building will help them to consolidate current operations, not speculate (i.e., gamble) on logistics trends that may or may not come to pass.

In short: 3M scores 4 points, Business Center 0.