Warehousing, dissecting the arguments for making it DeKalb’s premier industry

I find this whole argument over warehousing quite interesting. From the one side you have those who believe DeKalb can do better than this for its industrial base. For reference, I lean towards this side. There are others who believe that warehousing is the only industry we should seek out.

There have been several arguments for making warehousing our primary industry. The predominant arguments I have heard are, “We need the low end jobs for unskilled workers”, “There are no more manufacturing jobs in the USA, only warehousing”, “Our schools need the funding”, “High tech and other commercial industries bring in workers from the outside who ultimately burden our city and schools”, last but not least, “Any job is a good job and we need the jobs”.

I think we would be wise to analyze these arguments. They all have elements of truth to them. They also ignore important elements of truth.

‘We need the low end jobs for unskilled workers”

It is true, we need jobs for unskilled workers. On the other hand, not all of the residents here are unskilled. The DeKalb population base is blessed with all sorts of skill sets and as a university town, we have a fresh supply workers being produced with skills encompassing many industries. We should consider ways to give the unskilled of the community good marketable skills. Being of a conservative slant, I think programs for this should not only come from the government but also from the business community and social groups as well. Because a person is unskilled, it doesn’t mean they can’t learn a skill. Most people only need to be given the opportunity. I was fortunate that my town, Reading Pa., had a Vo-Tech school where I spent half of each day in High school learning about electronics. There were many fields to choose from, auto mechanics, cosmetology, data processing etc. By the time I graduated from high school I had enough of a skill set to get my first real job as an production technician testing and fixing boards for televisions. It wasn’t much of a skill but I was able to build on it. I’m sure there are plenty of students in the DeKalb High School who, if given a similar opportunity, will be able to become anything they can dream of being.

“There are no more manufacturing jobs in the USA, only warehousing”

The number of manufacturing jobs is ever shrinking in the US as a whole. I’m not sure what the solution to this is, except that we, as a nation, need to fix this. We need to learn new skills and come up with new ideas that we can export to the rest of world for us to keep the standard of living we’ve come used to having. Building our nation up with jobs in an industry that is totally dependent on the US consumer will ultimately kill our towns as well as the nation as a whole. If we do not produce something the rest of the world wants and is willing to pay for, we won’t have any ‘currency’ to pay for all of those cheap imports we demand. This of course spurs an entirely different argument, one which this article is not about. Suffice it to say, we should not put all of our eggs in such a fragile basket.

“Our schools need the funding”

Our schools do need the funding. Warehousing does bring in tax revenues and they do not have many jobs per square foot which keeps the burden on the schools to a minimum. Sadly, from my understanding, the taxes they pay are on the low end of the tax scale. Other industries pay much higher taxes. Warehouses are full of things and have a small number of people moving those things about. Offices have a larger number of people per square foot, and they push very few things around, mostly money and ideas. This naturally means more residents and more kids in our schools. Of course they pay higher taxes to offset this. This flows right into the next argument given.

“High tech and other commercial industries bring in workers from the outside who ultimately burden our city and schools”

Other industries, such as high tech and financial, do bring in workers from outside of the community. So what? We can pretty much expect the population of DeKalb to grow even if we didn’t have one new job to offer. I believe it is estimated that the population of the city is expected to reach 50,000 by 2010 or maybe it was 2015. The time frame is not as important as the estimate of growth. With or without industry, warehousing or otherwise, our population will grow creating additional burdens on our city’s services and our schools. Wake up folks! Look around! New homes are being built left and right. The only reason we had a slow down was because the city council invoked a moratorium on new homes until they could solve how to pay for the additional services that they would need. This is without even attracting many new industries here lately. I don’t think the Walmart and other stores on 23 nor did the Target attract all of these homes. DeKalb is a good place to live! It is now closer to civilization than it ever has been in the past. The population base of Northern Illinois will continue it’s march westward. More people will move into DeKalb! Does it not make sense we should have a good mix of industries in our community so the existing residents as well as these new residents can work and spend their money close to home? Why should I go spend my lunch money in Naperville? Why should I have to spend $200.00 or more each month in gas driving over to DuPage county instead of spending that money here in DeKalb?

“Any job is a good job and we need the jobs”

I’m a firm believer that no job is bad. If you work hard, and do a good job as a fork lift driver, or whatever job it is you have, you can be proud of your work. There is no shame in any work. My contention is is that it is bad for a town to have only one industry. Evidence for this can be seen all over the country. A town thrives until it’s industry leaves or goes bust, then most of the town is unemployed and the town then dies or it takes years for it to recover. DeKalb needs a good mix of industry. We already have a number of warehouses large and small. It is time to look to other industries.

I believe the real argument for warehousing is…

In my opinion, the real reason for making warehousing the industry of choice for DeKalb is plain laziness. Face it, thanks to our location, the people in charge of finding new industry for our city and county can just sit on their hands and wait for the next logistics center to come. These people would have to create a marketing plan and find creative ways to espouse the virtues of DeKalb and it’s surrounding areas if they want to get other industries into DeKalb. Why work when you don’t have to? Why spend the time searching and coming up with ideas for attracting other industries when the logistic industry just comes calling without little or no effort? Being a lazy person my self, I can relate to this. Being a person who does not settle for mediocrity, I just don’t understand how we let ourselves fall into the trap. The trap these people lay with their half truths and underestimations of DeKalb and its residents! If half of the energy was spent on marketing DeKalb to other industries as spent on justifying why warehouses are the only good solution for DeKalb, we would already have all sorts of industry in town.

To sum this up. DeKalb is a great town. The fact that we are growing and it is estimated that this growth will only increase is the evidence for this. We have a good population base and have a broad skill set. We should capitalize on this and work to find ways to attract various forms of industry, High Tech, financial etc, not just the ones that come easy for us. We all need to work at this! This is not the time for DeKalb, let alone any town in the US, to sit back and just let come what may. We should look back to what made our country great, creativity, innovation and hard work, and apply these to building the DeKalb our children will be proud to call home. The DeKalb where we, our children and our children’s children will have jobs. The DeKalb which will help keep America strong for the next century to come.