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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Oh-01 GOP Steve Chabot Slips On A Banana Peel: Kasich Sends $16 Million To Spanish Solar Firm, State Incentive Package Far Larger Than $6.5 Million Chiquita Offered

Ohio Offered More To Spanish Solar Firm Than Chiquita
[UPDATE 12/4 6:11 p.m.  -- Progress Ohio has the latest on Gov. Kasich's $400 million bid to lure Sears Holding Co. to Columbus.  Now reporting the bid equals ailing retailer's losses in latest financial quarter.]

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- An official short shrift that helped shove Chiquita out of Ohio?  The state economic development aid package for Spain's Isofoton, S.A., is nearly $9.5 million more than its bid to keep Chiquita's corporate headquarters with 313 jobs in downtown Cincinnati.  Isofoton, with $15.8 million from the state, plans to open a factory with 121 jobs making solar panels in Northwest Ohio.  Chiquita didn't get such a sweet deal -- it got a $6.5 million offer from Kasich.  The better deal was $22.7 million from North Carolina; Chiquita grabbed the money and peeled out of town.  The banana company announced this week it will pack up for new digs in Charlotte.  Meanwhile, over the past six weeks Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot has been bashing the Obama Administration for wasting job stimulus money dollars on investments in foreign solar power firms.  Chabot, whose first district covers a significant chunk of Hamilton County, thinks the promised green jobs don't materialize.  The Cincinnati congressman grumped Nov. 2 about "79 percent of stimulus funds for 'green' energy projects that went to FOREIGN firms."  Chabot used all capital letters to emphasize the money was going to "foreign" firms.  So far, Chabot hasn't beefed about Chiquita's departure, which is a major economic blow to the city he represents.  And he hasn't had anything to say about Kasich's package of grants, loans and other incentives for a Spanish "green energy" corporation.

But Kasich's economic development team has been crowing about its $15.8 million state aid package for Isofoton, a Spanish solar energy technology company that makes photovoltaic panels.  The company has picked Napoleon, Ohio, as the new home for its North American manufacturing facility. Here's a brief excerpt from a recent press release announcing the deal, " . . the Ohio Department of Development will offer assistance of $15.8 million to leverage Isofoton's pledged $16.4 million investment in Ohio."  The deal is supposed to create 121 new jobs, and 331 by the middle of this decade.  Chiquita had virtually the same number of jobs in Cincinnati -- but Ohio didn't come up with enough to keep them in town.  The state's recent news releases about Isofoton are here and here.  Chabot has been harsh in his attacks on green jobs, and in October wrote in a campaign blog post:

"Well, no surprise there. We’ve known for some time now that most of the Stimulus money was wasted – particularly the 'green jobs' portion of it. (Can you say Solyndra?) According to the article, the $500 million green jobs program was supposed to put 80,000 people in new jobs. Instead, only 8,000 were employed, 10% of the target. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa stated that 'This report paints a pretty bleak picture of the program’s effectiveness in job creation.'  And now President Obama wants Congress to pass Stimulus II (he calls it his Jobs Bill), chock-full of new so-called 'green jobs.' He’s now dashing around the country (mostly to swing states) bashing Republicans for not passing his bill (even though quite a few Senate Democrats have said they don’t support it either.) There’s a saying: 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.' I think it applies here."

If green jobs are such a waste, does it apply to Kasich's efforts to underwrite the Spanish solar panel maker?  Plunderbund, a Columbus blog that supports Democrats, is noting that the state just didn't seem to try very hard to save Chiquita.  It dug up data showing how much it cost to save each job in several recent economic development packages:

"But how does the $6.5 million the state offered [Chiquita] measure up to other deals the Kasich Administration offered (or for that matter, the Strickland Administration offered NCR?)"
Amount offered
# of jobs
Cost per “saved” jobs
American Greetings$93,500,000
Bob Evans$11,800,000
NCR (Strickland)$31,000,00

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