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Cold Storage
by Ted Wright


January 24, 2005

I'm not so sure the issue of whether to use public funds to support development of a cold storage in Ketchikan is as clear-cut as it may seem. It isn't simply an issue of using tax dollars to fund a project that will compete in the free market. After all, governments allocate public funds for projects all the time; and a good number of them compete with private industry. For example, there are more than 1000 federal grant programs awarding funds through 57 agencies of the government, including 151 billion for small business and 38 billion for community development. If you took stock of the federal funds coming into Ketchikan for community and economic development, I'd bet there's a couple million there at least, and some of that is market competetive.

The U.S. government and a number of state governments subsidize corporate growth and development when it helps create jobs, increase productivity, or provide a competetive edge. Why shouldn't local governments do the same? When Washington state and the U.S. government provide hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives and breaks for Boeing, I don't cry foul because I know it is important that Boeing compete with its heavily subsidized European Union counterpart, Airbus.

Competition is the thing. And sometimes Ketchikan will find itself competing with other communities for industry. So sometimes it may make sense for the local government to spend public money to get an edge. Juneau does this all the time. I don't know enough about the cold storage capacity and market in Ketchikan and Southeast to suggest that the use of public funds is warranted; but it should at least be considered.

Ted Wright
Seattle, WA - USA



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