In September, the Fage yogurt plant in Johnstown opened up its new $82 million, 80,000-square-foot expansion.
The company has already created 113 out of a planned 130 additional jobs and everything at the plant is said to be humming along wonderfully.
As part of the whole plan, the state's Empire State Development Corp. is considering awarding $780,000 to support new machinery and equipment at the plant. But before it awards the money, ESDC plans to hold a public hearing next week.
Our question is this: Shouldn't the public hearing on awarding the money have been held before they went through with the expansion?
We presume the hearing is designed to solicit public input on the importance of the expansion; the implications of it on the region; the impact of the plant expansion on neighbors, traffic and the environment; the financial viability of the company's plan and the need for the money to complete the project.
That's the kind of input you would want before you go around promising three-quarters of a million dollars of state taxpayer money to some business enterprise.
Maybe a public hearing held before the expansion was completed would have raised some red flags about the project. Maybe the state would have gleaned some kind of insight into why it shouldn't be awarding the money.
We suppose some might think it smart for the state to see how things worked out with the expansion before writing the check. Make sure it’s a success, then fund it. That certainly would take some of the guess work out of the process. Then why don’t they do that for every economic development project? For one, many projects that need state funding to move ahead wouldn’t get built. And if a project is proven successful, there’d be no need to give them state money after the fact.
We assume the company needs the money for the expansion and is counting on it being awarded. Now it appears there's at least a chance it won’t be.
Wouldn't it have been better for the company to know for sure, before it spent all that money up front equipping the plant, that it was actually guaranteed to get the money? What are they going to do if people show up at the hearing and offer objections -- not turn the money over?
We're glad the plant has been targeted for the state funding. It apparently is a worthy project.
But it would have been more responsible, on behalf of state taxpayers, to assess that before the plant was up and running — not after.