Very soon, the Wallingford Town Council will be visited by Bob Winston of Winston Hospitality, who will try to convince that body that he is entitled to a very special tax abatement arrangement on the partially-built hotel property he bought in foreclosure in 2013. The concessions he is seeking are far and above the amount that the newly passed incentive program allots to such a project, and thus the Town Council is involved.
My support for the industrial and commercial concerns that contribute so much to our community is unequivocal and consistent. But having said that, I have real questions about this particular request, as do members of the EDC and Council.
Mr. Winston has stated that, for the project to move forward, he needs these above-the-norm abatements. Therefore, some of the questions I would ask him are:
When you ran the numbers in preparation for your purchase of this property, what did you plug in for property taxes? Did you really invest all this money rolling the dice that Wallingford would accede to this discount proposal? Did your bank buy into this gamble?
When companies go shopping for a new location and ask for special tax treatment from government, they have to have leverage. They have to make it clear that if the tax breaks aren’t forthcoming, then they can and will go elsewhere to find a venue that is more competitive. For instance, the Boeing Company has been showered with an incredible 54 site proposals from 22 states that are trying to lure the company into locating a factory to assemble its new 777X aircraft because the company has the latitude to build their multi-billion dollar plant in any of these locations.
Let’s apply this logic to the hotel property on Route 68. If the Wallingford Town Council doesn’t buy Mr. Winston’s proposal, what are his real options? Move the structure to a town that will? Obviously, that is impossible. Fail to complete the construction and thus reduce Wallingford’s revenue from the project? Well, yeah he could, but that means the millions he has already invested are wasted. Hotels are built to serve a local market. This one is half-built already. What would our hundreds of thousands of lost tax revenue buy us, exactly?
Ah, but maybe he can convince the State of Connecticut to help fund his project. From what we’ve seen, they throw money at practically anyone. A couple of years ago, they gave millions to Southington to help the Lake Compounce Family Theme Park expand. Why? What possible alternatives did this amusement park have that necessitated the state’s taxpayers to foot this bill? Move to North Carolina? No. The park exists to serve this state. If it makes economic sense to expand, let them finance their own expansion.
And the state funds companies to move from Cheshire to New Haven, and throws more millions at hedge fund billionaires to consolidate facilities already located in the state, while at the same time subsidizing unrealistic pipe dreams such as having 20% of the state’s energy needs supplied by “renewables” and “clean energy,” further driving up what are already the highest electric rates in the country. Is it any wonder that a company like Boeing would build their plant on the moon before they would locate in our state?
Let me end this rant by leaving you with this additional thought to consider. In our system of government, it is a fact of life that states have to compete against one another in order to build their respective economies, the foundation of which for many is manufacturing.
Most of Connecticut’s competitors spend hundreds of millions of dollars luring companies to move into their state. We, on the other hand, have built a business environment that necessitates that we spend our hundreds of millions of dollars bribing those still here not to move out.
Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford Town Councilor.