The Resident’s Corner is a blog in the Naples Daily News. The below blog article, The EDC Hasn’t Learned a Thing, is quite accurate on why Jackson Laboratories was not a good fit for Collier County (and Florida). Dave Trecker’s point by point argument puts forth the false assumptions and blind conclusions of Tammie Nemecek, the retiring CEO of the Collier County Economic Development Council (EDC). The private business negotiation between Arthrex and Barron Collier Cos. is as it ought to be, i.e., without government interference. There was a previous Naples Daily News article by Liz Freeman where Commissioner Jim Coletta took credit for this negotiation. This isn’t true. Although the Collier County government (along with the EDC) should foster the condition where the self-reliant have the best opportunity to prosper, it was Reinhold Schmieding, the president of Arthrex, who made the decision that was not politically motivated by anyone else. Schmieding made the decision to expand to eastern Collier County on two bases: Barron Collier Cos. gave land to Arthrex and there is affordable housing for employees. A negotiation like this has many details. But none of those details are “entrepreneurial government agent” inspired. The EDC needs to do an economic overhaul in its own “economic development” philosophy. This writer has stated several times before that families make businesses, and, therefore, the EDC must focus on family migration into eastern Collier County. The only way families will come is if there are good schools in eastern Collier County. At this time there aren’t enough good schools. The EDC has its work cut out, but the EDC is neither sufficient nor necessary. The job can be done without the EDC.
The problem must be systemic.
If you have any doubt, read Jeff Lytle’s interview with Tammie Nemecek, outgoing president of the Economic Development Council (EDC).
When asked why the Jackson Lab project failed, Nemecek said it was all about state money. The state never delivered the first installment.
The timing was bad. Federal funds for Florida were uncertain. The project was a good one. It was abandoned simply because we never got state money.
Nothing more than that.
Nothing about the project being extremely unpopular with taxpayers (Naples Daily News electronic surveys showed 63-83% opposition, depending on the question asked).
Nothing about concerns over raising taxes or fees in a recession — this in the face of the county cutting services.
Nothing about experts saying the project had little chance of success — that using a Jackson facility as a magnet to attract a biomedical village to eastern Collier County was a pipe dream.
Nothing about a report from the Productivity Committee pointing out financial flaws — that based on the most optimistic assumptions, the project generated only marginal returns.
Nothing about the folly of betting the ranch on gene-directed “personalized medicine,” an already-crowded field with long-term potential but nothing to show after 10-plus years of intensive research.
Nothing about the failure of other biomedical centers in Florida to deliver promised jobs.
Nothing about opposition from conservative Catholics and many Ave Maria residents.
Nothing about the lawsuits. There were several and there would have been more.
Nothing about the anger of voters who were denied a binding referendum.
Nemecek acknowledged none of this.
To the EDC, it was all about state funding. Several county commissioners said the same. The project was jettisoned simply because the state never came through.
According to Nemecek, Jackson was a good idea and “everyone should be proud that we tried.”
The EDC apparently hasn’t learned a thing.
It hasn’t learned that the possibility of getting state money for a project doesn’t necessarily make that project a good one.
It hasn’t learned to heed the advice of experts. Shutting out contrarian views is a sure recipe for failure.
It hasn’t learned that taxpayers matter. Their opinions count. They pay the bills. They should be consulted at an early stage.
It hasn’t learned not to put all of its eggs in one basket.
While its counterpart in Lee County continues to rack up small successes with minimal subsidies, bringing in new jobs and growing its business base, our EDC spins history, bemoans the loss of Jackson and offers nothing in its place.
A systemic problem? It seems that way.