The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) touched base with Robert Torres, Director of Economic Development for the city of Canton this past week.
On the American Electric Power (AEP) rate increase. The Report asked Torres whether or not he had been contacted by AEP in his capacity as Canton's economic development person and asked to appear on behalf of AEP at the Canton hearing (Glenwood Middle School - October 16th).
The Report noted to Torres that it appeared, because of the number of economic development types testifying, that AEP had gone out and solicitied these folks in sort of a coordinated fashion to be at the hearing to buttress the AEP request for a 52%/62% increase in AEP/Ohio Power.
Torres denied that Canton was part of a coordinated AEP effort. Torres expressed regret (The Report's word) that Canton had made any appearance at all because many at the hearing took his statment (speaking for himself) and Mayor Healy's statement as being pro-AEP rate increase. He said Canton should have remained on the sidelines and neutral as Canton needs an economically viable AEP/Ohio Power while keeping business/industry competitive.
Mayor Healy did eventually issue a supplemental communication expressing concern about the financial stress that the requested increase would cause to Canton business, industry and residents.
On government giving subsidies to lure to businesses into Canton. Torres said that whether or not subsidies are granted in dependent on a cost/benefit analysis. He cited a number of examples to give the concreteness to his position.
Torres talked about a business which was 99% completed in terms of relocated to Canton. At the end of the process, the ownership asked about the availability of a subsidy. Torres' response was to say none were available in light of the fact the the business was not going to be backtracking on the relocation when the process was at the 99% completed stag.
Another example. If a business, let's say a retail pizza business operation expresses interest in relocated to Canton. Torres says there would be likely be no chance that Canton would offer any kind of subsidy since Canton has as many pizza businesses as it needs.
Asked about doing economic development in times like these (i.e. the United States has been in a recession since December, 2007), Torres said that tough economic times like these make it imperative that economic planners get very creative in luring and maintaining new businesses and that he welcomed the challenge.