You won, Skip.

I am no fan of offering financial incentives to businesses as requisite for a locale being considered for new jobs, but incentives have become easy money for companies with jobs to throw around.  In the present economy local governments must pay or pass on the jobs and this will not change unless there is federal intervention (which I oppose).  Incentive packages have unfortunately become a necessary evil. 

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted 7-2 last week to offer Citicorp Credit Services up to $1.2 million to keep the company’s 700 current jobs in Guilford County and to possibly create up to 1000 new positions in the future.  The two dissenting votes were cast for two very different reasons.  One I agree with… the other I do not.

Billy Yow voted against the measure because he was “appalled” that a company as wealthy ($16B in ’03) as Citicorp would blackmail (my term) a struggling County.  Citicorp suggested that it would not just withhold the new expansion, but might actually take the existing 700 jobs to a more agreeable municipality if it didn’t get the ransom (again… me) they demanded.  I appreciate Commissioner Yow’s vote even though I would have probably voted the other way as a practical matter.

Commissioner Skip Alston had a very different reason.  He voted against the incentive because none of the Citicorp representatives in attendence knew the racial makeup of the current 700 employees according to an article in this week’s Rhino (not posted). 

I have no idea,” was the response Alston received when he asked a Citicorp vice president about the racial ratio.  Alston couldn’t believe it, “You have no idea?“, he asked again.  “We don’t count them“, said the Citicorp official..  “…I can’t buy that.  I will be voting against it“, Alston concuded.  And he did.  

Without realizing it, Commissioner Alston may have voted against the very thing he has been working for all of his adult life in employer/employee racial matters.  In an earlier time a corporation would have their ducks in a row with charts and graphs demonstrating their racial diversity and affirmative action progress if they were asking for taxpayer money.  They likely put those presentation supplies in storage sometime in the late1980′s.  The racial makeup of Citicorp’s employees is available I’m sure, but it probably only shows up in HR Departmental reports as some long ago created formula on an Excel spreadsheet.

Commissioner Alston has become a victim of his own success. The question of diversity is still important, but at long last, it is no longer pivitol.  Because of past anti-discrimination efforts of Alston and many others, when jobs are made available they are equally accessible to all qualified applicants… by law.  Questioning a company like Citicorp’s racial hiring practices and ratios is, well… so… Guilford County.

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