Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Polluted Legacy

It's a scene all too common across the American landscape. Communities, large and small, competing against each other to lure Corporate America to their city or town. They knit together tax abatements, taxpayer-funded infrastructure improvements, and a host of other economic enticements. The Big Boys make their selection and the community seems to flourish...for awhile.

However, sooner or later, the mega company pulls up stakes and gets the hell out of dodge. For all the freebies and good will they've received over the years (possibly decades), they leave the community to deal with soaring unemployment, a diminished tax base, struggling local businesses who relied on the Big Boys AND a toxic mess.

One such story appears in a recent edition of The Progressive Populist, "Big Blues: The Death of an Industrial Town". A homegrown son of Endicott, NY tells us of the sickness left behind when 2 companies eventually pulled out of town.

Here's a snippet:
I can clearly remember the day in 1984 when Ronald Reagan came to town. I was an 8-year-old living in Endicott, N.Y., an industrial village home to both IBM and a large shoe company named Endicott Johnson (known to the locals as E-J). The president was campaigning, and that afternoon he would be speaking at the high school football stadium. I recall the deafening approval of thousands of residents when the president began his speech by asking, "Which way E-J?" While this query must have seemed nonsensical to outsiders, it had special meaning to the residents of Endicott. To them, Reagan's question symbolized their pride in Endicott's prosperity, and the assumption that good economic times were there to stay. Who could have guessed that in 20-years time, the same town that once rated an election-year visit from the president would be a polluted economic wasteland?

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