Build jobs, not buildings

Asheville has been getting a lot of new buildings around town, in such places as UNCA, Asheville High, AB-Tech and the courthouse. Where is the money coming from to fund all these? You guessed it: job cuts. The state is also reducing or cutting much-needed mental-health services across the North Carolina. UNCA cut staff or reshuffled staff positions; AB-Tech wants the Asheville voters to decide if it gets to have new buildings.

When does something work for the people instead of always having to get cut? Cutting things for the budget is not always the best answer. When have new buildings become more important than the people they serve? That is where the cuts need to be made — not on staffing positions, but on new buildings and remodeling. Or has the state not noticed yet that Asheville has a tight economy?

It may look like cutting or reducing is good now, but it will not help long term. We say this is a quality city. Not so if the mountains are only surrounded by new buildings and people have to go elsewhere for jobs that should have stayed put!

— Marci McGowan
Asheville

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5 thoughts on “Build jobs, not buildings

  1. Grant Millin

    We need national infrastructure improvements, but new hotels are not really on the target list.

    There are a lot of existing buildings that can be renovated. Making old buildings zero emission can be hard. In certain situations it’s best to demolish old buildings and replace the capacity with new construction.

    The writer points to some interesting issues. Even if the new university buildings she mentions are replacing obsolete class rooms and/or are more ‘green’, which at least the new UNCA buildings are—and I would assume at least somewhat so with the A-B Tech ones—then that means there are as many students coming in as in previous generations.

    Conventional wisdom: More of the old buildings on our local campuses can now be demolished because current and incoming generations will not be able to afford university and even community college. Thus there will be fewer people who have basic innovation capabilities, few competitors to legacy wealth and corporatism; and therefore there will be less tax revenue because of ’The Service Economy’… and then that means government will be smaller so the rich won’t be taxed as much. Easy shmeesy breezy.

    Btw, I don’t actually agree with the above paragraph and I doubt UNCA, A-B Tech and other local education leadership do either. There is a big movement to rationalize not investing in public education and making it available to whoever wants higher education (along with corporatizing the lower grades).

    That’s just one of the points on the strategy map for pulling the plug on liberal democracy.

    Good line of inquiry, Marci. Thanks.

  2. ashevillain7

    The point being made in this letter is false. Why does this topic always seem to be brought up while ignoring the facts? Capital improvements such as the ones mentioned are always budgeted and planned for far (years) in advance. Layoffs are not. Employers generally tend to hold on to their employees for as long as possible (sometimes longer than financially responsible).

    Example: Do you honestly think UNCA administrators planned out the recent layoffs while budgeting 3+ years ago for the currently in-progress Health & Wellness Center?

    Now if you were to use a project that is currently being planned while layoffs or hiring freezes are happening simultaneously, then you’d have a point. (cough)51 Biltmore(/cough)

  3. Grant Millin

    Capital improvements and strategic plans look at the long game. True.

    It enough space for several commentaries, but the effects on long-term planning in the face to policy changes due to 2, 4 and 6-year election cycles is worth considering. There isn’t a dramatic reduction in the demand for school improvements. There is a lot of unpredictable changes in tax policy and spending.

    We don’t have to radically slash public budgets and scramble for revenue is there is a constant in terms of good government program management and balanced, progressive taxation.

    I think Marci was covering a few observations rather than unraveling the whole enchilada.

  4. Tom Johnson

    Marci

    You seem to forget one thing. Putting up buildings creates jobs in one of the hardest hit sectors of the economy. Layoffs and capital improvements are very different things. If we just think “anti-build” what would be more likely happen is that the layoffs would still occur and the buildings would no get built. Lose – Lose. I feel for the people laid off (as I am at the moment), but not investing in the future is a bad ides.

  5. Grant Millin

    Hey Tom,

    I think that if we look at the role of building more homes and office skyscrapers, we’ll see that those envelopes aren’t actually needed right now. It’s clear the new home construction has been one of our ‘growth’ measures in the past.

    If we connect the economy and growth as it’s been known to that kind of new construction, we’ll pretty much miss the boat every time. There’s a surplus of unoccupied homes, office space and warehousing in Buncombe. Filling those envelopes would be a good thing. Of course if demand started to look like it would outstrip the stock, then maybe there will be some significant new construction.

    It’s certainly ‘the boat’ a bunch of contractors, developers, bankers, investors and hedge fund managers have been riding in. But if those folks all of the sudden went missing in some Godly rapture, would the rest of us notice they were gone?

    We do need economic activity, and the right kind of renewal. I keep seeing hope indicators that capitalism will innovate itself to keep up with the needs of our world.

    We need entrepreneurial innovation that’s relevant now, for the largest demographic group. I don’t mean another brewery, web design firm, or hotel either… though I’m happy for such companies.

    I hope you find a great new job/career this spring, Tom. We need CAREER jobs in this region!

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