By Paul Gorski
We’ve just celebrated Labor Day, a day that highlights the efforts and achievements of the American working class, and the community is still celebrating Woodward, Inc.’s expansion in Loves Park, Ill. We’re celebrating both because the focus of both is “jobs,” and we sorely need new jobs in the region.
Despite my reservation that Loves Park created a TIF district, an economic tool usually reserved for blighted areas, to entice Woodward to expand here, I think we’re stronger with an expanded Woodward. There aren’t many local residents who don’t know of someone who has worked for Woodward at one time or another. Thank you, Woodward, for expanding here.
The hope for new jobs that the Woodward expansion brings has county board members rethinking how they vote on spending the tipping fee money from the landfill. The tipping fee money is supposed to be spent on “economic development.” The county is contributing tipping fee money toward the Woodward expansion, and I think that is a wise use of those funds at this time.
If you didn’t know, the tipping fee is essentially a tax, based on contractual agreement with the landfill, that the county collects on garbage placed in the dump. You and I are paying for that tipping fee through our garbage bills, not line-itemed, but passed on to us as operating costs. Haulers from outside the county also pay the fee as they drop off their garbage. So, when county politicians proclaim the greatness of the tipping fee, just remember it is a tax, a tax most of us pay.
As a taxpayer, I like to get more bang from my tipping fee buck. Some county board members might be inclined to save the tipping fees for big projects like Woodward, but I think that is backward thinking. We’re spending the money to create jobs for some people who live here now, but people outside the county will fill many of the new jobs because many local residents simply don’t have the required skills. We need to invest future tipping fee dollars into strengthening local heath care and educational opportunities to prepare local residents for better jobs.
You can’t learn very well if you’re not healthy, and if you can’t learn, you can’t move on to higher-skilled, better-paying jobs. So, focus on early childhood health care, inspire our students, and strengthen our schools to lay the groundwork for a stronger workforce.
Not only would we be laying the groundwork for a stronger workforce for large companies by investing tipping fee dollars into health care, education and job training, but we would be developing the local talent that would create new small businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy, and a thriving small business community is essential to any successful region.
I will address what types of health care and educational investments to focus on in a future article.
Paul Gorski (http://www.paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident and a former Winnebago County Board member.
From the Sept. 5-11, 2012, issue