If you want to see a fine example of what economic development is in this economy, you need only look to this story from western Massachusetts today, which documents the sale of a paper company in New England in two cities, one of which has been in tough economic times for decades.
The Crane Paper Company of Dalton, Mass., (they’re the company that makes the paper on which money is printed), bought a paper company in Kennebunk, Maine, and intends to move its operations — designers and craftspeople — to Crane’s North Adams, Ma., factory.
I know North Adams pretty well; I have family there and my father-in-law owned the radio station there for many years. In the ’70s, its major employer — Sprague Electric — moved its operation South as many manufacturers in New England’s milltowns did, leaving people struggling. And, for the most part, they’ve been struggling ever since.
So the news is good news for that area. But it’s this line in the story that’s troubling:
The consolidation will result in no job cuts, which employs around 300 in North Adams. Crane will offer William Arthur’s 270 Maine employees jobs in western Massachusetts.
This is unemployment mathematics. If you eliminate jobs in one location, but you add jobs in another, nobody has lost a job.
But what are the odds that 270 residents of Maine will decide to pick up their belongings, sell their homes, leave their extended family, and move to a far corner of rural Massachusetts?
Some of them obviously will. But it’s a good bet that a lot of them would rather stay where they’re comfortable.
In New England particularly, economic development means creating a job by taking it from somewhere else.