Say no to Dr. Linder

East Greensboro desperately needs an influx of new businesses.  Living in this part of town means we must travel great distances to find the kind of shopping choices that most of the rest of the city enjoys through a drive or walk of only a few minutes.  Beyond a few grocery stores, a dollar store or two, some independent clothing stores, check cashing services and little else, the folks who live around here have to go way across town to find, say… A WalMart.  But that’s nothing that $300,000 in taxpayer money can’t fix. 

According to Councilwoman Sandy Carmany it appears our City Council is headed toward spending that amount for…that’s right, a WalMart.  I think we should pass.  If Dr. Don Linder, the owner of the old Carolina Circle Mall, wants to attract a WalMart to East Greensboro, then he should go to WalMart for the money because they’re flush with the stuff.

I’m not buying Dr. Linder’s hard luck story that the development of his property won’t happen without $300,000 in taxpayer supplied incentives.  If he paid too much for the Carolina Circle Mall property, or if he didn’t investigate all of the pitfalls of bringing his development to market, or if the leases he negotiated with potential tenants are too low to recoup his investment in the private development, then he made a miscalculation.  It is not the job of our City Council to reward miscalculations or bad business decisions.  They’ve done enough of that over the years.

Sunday’s N&R’s editorial on changing the rules for awarding incentives (why now?  It appears that Dr. Linder has been a busy guy) is right on the money. 

The stated goals of taxpayer supplied incentives for industry, (and now some retail businesses), should always be to create jobs that pay a living wage or better.  WalMart pays crap.  Also, under the specifics of the deal the city is working on for Dr. Linder, there is no guarantee the taxpayers are ever going to get their money back through taxes on property improvements or incremental sales tax increases in the manner that incentives are supposed to accomplish.  WalMart does not create new shoppers or new sales, it simply takes them from other businesses.  From the available information provided so far the proposed WalMart/Linder incentive package will accomplish squat for the tax base (or taxpayers) other than subsidize a local developer’s equity position in his real estate holdings.

So, if the City Council approves Dr. Linder’s requested economic bailout, the only benefit I can see coming from his new development is the creation of convenience for retail customers.  Although I would appreciate having a first class shopping center so close to my house, creating shopping convenience is not the business of government and hardly worth $300,000.00.

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