There’s a new word being spawned that relates to efforts by area politicians and those living off of their efforts to justify the roughly $107 million taxpayers – including about $15 million and $35 million, respectively out of the pockets of Bossier Parish and Bossier City residents – have coughed up in the government venture capital project known as the Cyber Innovation Center. Prompt one of these individuals on the subject, and they produce, et voilà, “cyberbabble.”
Understandably, Bossier elected officials should be increasingly nervous as one of the biggest capital expenditure items in their governing bodies’ histories looks to be a failed gamble. The idea was provide a compelling reason for the Air Force to set up its cyber-warfare headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base by creating an infrastructural hub at taxpayer expense.
Lost in the breathless predictions of as many as 10,000 jobs to be created was the hard, cold economic (a resource-poor cyber environment for which a new building could not compensate) and political (too many other national politicians interested in a piece of this pie) facts which thinking leaders should have considered before hanging this tab on the citizenry. To distract the public from the fact that there is not going to be anything close to what they hoped would constitute federal government stimulation of the industry here, given military decisions to dilute the cyber-warfare element, Bossier politicians have shifted their emphases from deeds to words.
Thus we get from the bureaucrat that runs the CIC, Director Craig Spohn, subsequently echoed by the Bossier Parish police juror most on the hook for the decision, Parish Administrator Bill Altimus, that “over the past year, the CIC has had an economic impact totaling over $13 million in outside federal spending in the region …. $11 million is ongoing research and over $2 million from outside the state related to the two symposiums hosted in the area by the CIC.” Now, what is being claimed here is, what exactly?
That $11 million has entered the local economy that is here only because of the CIC? If so, doesn’t that beg the question why we need a $107 million complex because a few ramshackle offices already got us this? Or is it $11 million in projects of which some small proportion ever directly enters the local economy? And can you reasonably say it was the CIC and CIC-conceived-as-$107-million-complex only that brought this research to this “region?” (And as far as $2 million generated in symposiums, if that’s all there is to it to generate economic growth, why don’t we have one every week – oh, that’s right, that was the idea behind Shreveport’s Convention Center, build it and all these out-of-town dollars would cascade here.)
Just to set the table, if the presence of the CIC complex ended up creating the incredibly optimistic scenario and assumptions of a thousand private sector jobs at $50,000 annual salary on average, whose families would spend 40 percent of that on Bossier purchases and buy houses in Bossier worth at least $200,000 each, that would generate an extra $1.5 million a year in sales and property tax revenues to Bossier City and Parish. At a low annual rate of return of 2 percent that the $50 million could have been invested in, it would still take 55.5 years for the local government investment to pay off. Put in more realistic assumptions, and you can see it’s more likely that an asteroid will plow into the complex before it will ever pay for itself.
What every Bossier citizen should demand from his elected officials (especially those running in Bossier City elections this spring) and bureaucrats when asking how their hard-earned resources are being used in this whole caper is not cyberbabble about nebulous research and gabfests, but hard data. How many permanent jobs have been created here only as a result of the $50 million local share that would not be here otherwise? How much in taxes do they pay as a result? What private-sector enterprises have come about or located here that would not have without the CIC complex? How much of what they spend translates into local tax revenue?
I invite Spohn, Altimus, or any other person in the know to enlighten us on these measures which I suspect in each case is close to if not a big fat zero. Maybe that will change one day, we all can hope. But to irresponsibly imply, as has Altimus when he stated “$13 million brought in on a $107 million investment, not bad by anyone's accounting,” that $13 million out of nowhere suddenly entered the local economy only because $107 million is being spent on some buildings only further damages the rapidly eroding credibility of the entire CIC idea. That’s the last thing we need if the enterprise ever hopes to return to the people benefits that even remotely match the costs they paid, courtesy of the ever-wishful thinking of Bossier politicians.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 08:15