According to a recent Buffalo News article the New York Power Authority is working on a deal with Yahoo!, the Internet giant, to bring them into WNY. The speculated deal would include giving Yahoo! power discounts totaling $101.2 million over the next 15 years. The plant Yahoo! is planning to build would create 125 jobs, which means that New York Power Authority would be spending $809,940 over the course of the contract for every job created.
A couple of quotes from the article about the potential deal:
- Referring to the amount being spent on each new job, “‘It’s exceptionally high, even for high-tech,’ said Greg LeRoy, a national expert on economic development subsidy programs.”
- “‘There are a few other deals we’ve seen over the years in that neighborhood, but it’s stratospheric. It doesn’t have much company,’ said LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a nonprofit research and advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.”
- “‘On a number basis,’ said Power Authority President Richard Kessel, ‘this doesn’t look like the greatest deal in the world, but we can’t look at the numbers alone.’”
Power Authority President Richard Kessel is correct; we can’t just look at the numbers. We also have to look at what kinds of jobs these are and where they will be located. As far as location, Yahoo! is looking at building its plant in rural areas like Cambria, Lockport or Pembroke. What kinds of jobs will these be? An interviewee in the article described these jobs as “high-tech”. This means they are sure to require at least a bachelor’s degree or some training.
A quick look at the NFTA’s website shows no public transportation to Cambria or Pembroke from Buffalo and no morning bus runs to Lockport from Buffalo. There also does not appear to be any scholarship or training programs for interested but unqualified workers associated with the deal. There will basically be no way for a low-income individual living in Buffalo to get a job at this potential plant if they do not have all the required qualifications and even if they do have the right qualifications, there will be no way for them to get to the job if they do not own a car, which is impossible for most low-income people.
If the deal goes through, this publicly subsidized plant will not create living wage jobs for the 1/3 of Buffalo that lives in poverty. This is not to say that communities like Cambria, Lockport, and Pembroke don’t need these jobs but could that $101.2 million do more good for more people in our community if it were given to a company that agreed to locate close to the areas that need the jobs most? To companies that will train some of the city’s thousands of unemployed workers?
If the city, county, or state ever hopes to end poverty and homelessness in Buffalo, it must make poverty its most important focus. In deals like the one being hashed out with Yahoo!, our administrators and elected officials must ask themselves if huge deals like these will create good jobs close to the communities that need the jobs most. Looking at the Poverty Challenge Budget it becomes clear that one of the major things that keeps people in poverty is their low-income. Many of the jobs that are available in the city are service sector jobs that pay very little, are often part-time, and offer few if any benefits. If the majority of jobs in a community pay poverty-level wages, then the majority of people in that community will stay in poverty.
Another aspect of the Poverty Challenge Budget that is sure to keep people in poverty is transportation. Using private transportation (or owning a car) will automatically blow your budget and put you into debt. But most of the decent paying jobs are outside the city, in places where there is little or no viable public transportation. The job that may help you get out of poverty is then out of reach becasue you can’t afford the transportation to get there and you have to settle for the minimum wage jobs in your neighborhood (which are harder than ever to find becasue of the current recession).
You could go down the list of items and expenses in the Poverty Challenge Budget starting with the low-income (due to the lack of jobs or the existence of only low paying jobs in your community), the high cost of rent/utilities, the cost of transportation, the cost of cell phones (very necessary for prospective employers to call you back) and see all the expenses that keep 1/3 of Buffalo in poverty. If our public officials ignore the poverty level budget and don’t address the need for living wage jobs, affordable rent, affordable transportation, etc. then thousands of people in Buffalo will continue to be impoverished.
The Yahoo! deal is another decision being made by public officials that does not have ending poverty as a primary concern or even as any concern at all. Deals that will create the kinds of jobs that will allow people to get out of poverty must be the ones we consider first if we have any desire to end poverty in Buffalo. The $101.2 million deal with Yahoo! is a deal that is being created without any concern for the thousands of impoverished people in our community. (more…)