Editorial: City offered everything it could for plant

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 3, 2003

Albert Lea is learning the hard way that it may be best not to take corporate overtures too seriously. It seems that every time in the last few years that we’ve gotten our hopes up for a big company to drop a few hundred jobs in our laps, it has ended in disappointment.

In the case of Premium Pork, it’s St. Joseph, Mo. that is expected to be celebrating at Albert Lea’s expense. With Ford, it was Menomonie, Wis. With Farmland, well, there may never be a new Farmland plant anywhere.

Those who supported the city’s efforts to lure the latest interested employer have reason to be disappointed. The injection into the local economy would have been swift and powerful. The idea of a new company setting up not only a packing plant, but a corporate headquarters, in Albert Lea easily captured the imagination of many.

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But the reality is that this decision was out of our control. The city of Albert Lea offered everything it could reasonably offer to make the deal attractive for Premium Pork. The state of Minnesota even chipped in with the promise of $1 million in grants. This is why waiting for a benevolent company to swoop in and rescue you is dangerous. Any employer looking for a place to build has hundreds of potential sites to choose from. The law of probability dictates that more often than not, any given city will lose. These decisions are nothing personal &045; they’re all about profits and strategic location and which city can be squeezed for more goodies and benefits.

That brings up an idea that has been kicked around lately: Was Albert Lea just a bargaining chip from the start, used to get a better deal out of St. Joseph? The lack of communication from the company, not only to the public, but even to city officials, is a bit dubious. The different stories told to Albert Lea and St. Joseph were also suspicious. We’ll never really know for sure, but there’s enough evidence to leave a bad taste in our collective mouth.

Regardless, City Councilman Randy Erdman has it right. Perhaps instead of hitting home runs, Albert Lea should pay more attention to efforts to round the bases one step at a time by encouraging local companies to grow and expand. It’s not as glamorous, but it’s got a much higher success rate than waiting for an outside company to pick us.