Monday, May 23, 2011

Corporate Charity Continues Unabated in North Canton

Prepared Comments Made to
May 23, 2011

On tonight’s agenda for a 2nd reading is Ordinance No. 53-11. This is an ordinance authorizing the Mayor of the City of North Canton to enter into an Industrial and Commercial Occupancy Grant Agreement for project Omega.

What is Project Omega? Is this a CIA covert operation that is being undertaken by the City of North Canton that requires the utmost secrecy? Are City leaders embarrassed to identify the beneficiary of this legislation?

Why continue this cloak of secrecy? Is North Canton financing a raid in a foreign country that must be kept quiet for security reasons?

As we all know, this is an occupancy grant agreement to Suarez Corporation Industries (SCI). Unless it is your desire to hide this fact from city residents, I ask that City Council documentation reflect who is the recipient of the grant and drop the cloak of anonymity? Transparency in government is best for all of us.

Why do City Leaders believe that the only way to bring jobs to North Canton is to provide tax abatements?

Economic development and jobs can and do come to North Canton without corporate charity.

In 2006, Dr. Suglio continued with his investment in our community in spite of the fact that he did not receive an abatement of taxes. CafĂ© Gelato and Suglio’s Dental Practice are thriving on Main Street.

Next door to Dr. Suglio on Main Street, Legacy Bank located a branch bank without ever asking for tax abatement. This was a sizeable investment in our community that came without the need for a tax giveaway.

In May, 2007, a proposed abatement of taxes for the Sherwin Williams Paint store never progressed beyond discussion after the public questioned the need for tax abatement for a public corporation, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, with sales of $7.8 billion dollars. Sherwin Williams built their store and invested in the community without any abatement.

North Canton has seen other businesses locate here and contribute to the community without asking for abatements. CVS Drugs and O’Reilly Auto Parts are under construction at the present time without public assistance. Walgreen’s has built two stores in North Canton without tax abatements.

New tenants have located to the Hoover District without receiving tax benefits for themselves. They include The Schroer Group with a large number of professional jobs, TruBridge Total Care, and Commercial Fluid Power and several other smaller businesses.

There are companies that want to come to North Canton and willingly contribute, financially, their fair share to support our community. These companies want North Canton to prosper because they understand that a thriving community benefits their business.

It is unfortunate that not all businesses want to share in the financial stability and growth of our community. Apparently, there are some businesses that feel that tax laws are too burdensome or unfair. These businesses ask that they be treated differently.

Over the last four years, the City of North Canton and the taxpayers of North Canton have enriched the Industrial Realty Group (IRG), the owners of the Hoover District, with the transfer of $3,440,000 of public money directly into their pockets to jumpstart the rebirth of jobs at the former Hoover site.

How much more public money must be diverted to enrich private interests at the Hoover District?

How much longer does the City of North Canton have to continue to provide corporate charity to IRG owner Stuart Lichter, a millionaire many times over?

Mr. Lichter and IRG have been paraded to the public as being the answer to North Canton’s prayers regarding the restoration of jobs at the Hoover District. It seems to me that given the state and local tax dollars that North Canton has put into the pockets of IRG, with no obligation for any payback, that the reverse is true. North Canton is the answer to Mr. Lichter and IRG’s prayers.

And now, Benjamin Suarez, owner of the Suarez Corporation Industries, wants public money put into his pockets as well. Why does the City of North Canton have to provide corporate charity to Mr. Suarez, also a millionaire many times over?

Taxes are the lifeblood of a community. Taxes fund all the services needed by a community to exist. If leaders continue to find ways to unravel the obligation to support the community, who remains to financially support North Canton City services?

In the case of the occupancy grant proposed for the Suarez Corporation, apparently this legislation has progressed to a second reading without any agreement or specific terms ever appearing in written form to City Council. From media reports it appears that the City of North Canton is prepared to return to the company fifty percent of City income taxes collected from individuals, working at or near minimum wage, for the Suarez Corporation Industries.

Does it seem fair and equitable to take income tax money collected from economically disadvantaged individuals and turn around and give that money to the multi-millionaire owner of the corporation where they work?

If employee salaries are taxed for needed income taxes to the community in which they work, they should be able to realize that their taxes have gone for the betterment of the community in which they work rather than the enrichment of their employer!

This proposed Occupancy Grant goes beyond corporate charity. I hope that North Canton City Council reconsiders any endorsement of this proposed Occupancy Grant agreement or any other agreement such as this.

If the Suarez Corporation has a viable plan to locate some of its operations to the City of North Canton, that plan should include supporting the City, fully, under the tax structure that applies equally to all North Canton businesses.

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne,
Resident, City of North Canton