Just say no to Raytheon Technologies

Melody Shank

BY MELODY SHANK

At the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners’ Feb. 15 meeting, I presented a petition on behalf of Reject Raytheon AVL. Signed by more than 300 people, it asked the commissioners to reconsider their approval of $27 million in economic development incentives to Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies — and, more importantly and urgently, to enact a moratorium on approving new industrial facilities with ties to the military. Ever since the news broke about the company’s decision to build a 1.2 millionsquare-foot factory here, our coalition has spoken out against the plan.

Our concerns include the environmental impact on the French Broad River, the disruption or destruction of the habitats of numerous vulnerable species in the nearby forest and wetlands, and the misguided move away from a path that would mitigate the climate crisis (the U.S. military, for which Pratt & Whitney builds jet engines, contributes mightily to greenhouse gas emissions). There’s also the lack of transparency that kept residents — and, apparently, the county commissioners themselves — in the dark during the negotiations. But beyond all that, we object to welcoming the world’s second-largest defense contractor — or, more accurately, war corporation — to our beautiful mountains, our city and our neighborhood.

Money talks

Chamber of Commerce staffers were exuberant about landing a Fortune 500 company that would bring well-paying jobs to the area. It would be a draw for other Big Tech and advanced manufacturing businesses. And, they noted, it would put Asheville on the radar of international companies and investors.

So why is this a problem? Why shouldn’t we all be thrilled? Jobs! Influence! Property tax revenues! New investment! More jobs!

Not so fast. Marrying one of the world’s biggest war corporations has consequences. And big it is. Last year, Raytheon reported a $3.9 billion profit on sales of $64.4 billion, second only to Lockheed Martin’s $67 billion. In 2019 and 2020 alone, the federal government awarded Raytheon military contracts worth $54 billion, according to Brown University’s Costs of War Project.

Remember: These are our tax dollars. And in those same years, Pratt & Whitney, which was part of United Technologies until a 2020 merger, received contracts worth at least $10 billion. A substantial percentage of Raytheon’s total revenues comes from arms sales to foreign countries, enabling the company to fill its pockets while extending the military’s reach across the globe. Not exactly a benign enterprise. And I won’t even get into the amount of waste in these deals.

Bringing a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies to Western North Carolina extends the reach of what President Dwight D. Eisenhower presciently called “the military-industrial complex” far beyond its already substantial presence in our state. Military facilities dot much of Eastern North Carolina, and Fort Bragg, outside Fayetteville, is among the world’s largest.

Meanwhile, since the early 2000s, military base operations have been increasingly outsourced. Many corporations have sprung up to provide things like uniforms, food, chemicals, technology, construction and research. Between 2014 and 2019, the total value of defense contracts received by North Carolina companies ballooned from $2.5 billion to $5.2 billion, according to war industry researcher and author Christian Sorensen. Again, those are our tax dollars.

The long arm of the armaments industry

Sorensen maintains that most of those smaller defense contractors could convert their products or services for civilian uses as part of a broader transition to an economy built on local needs and sustainability.

The Pratt & Whitney deal, however, brings a major player in the military-industrial complex right to our doorstep. Public officials and economic development officers have claimed that the extended reach of this intricate web of influence is not a local concern, but Eisenhower knew better.

He predicted that the armaments industry would affect every city and state in the country economically, politically and spiritually. By strategically placing their plants in as many congressional districts as possible, war corporations’ influence trickles up from communities and states to federal decision-makers. Like our local governmental officials, members of Congress find it hard to say no to what these businesses want. Whether it’s county and state tax incentives and grants or federal budgetary dollars, they tend to be approved with few meaningful restrictions.

Paying the piper

In addition to billions of dollars in defense contracts, Raytheon has received nearly $1 billion in state and local incentives, loans and other investments from 31 states over the last two decades. At $49 million, North Carolina ranks fourth in the total amount of such subsidies provided to the company since 2000. That figure includes the $15.5 million Job Development Investment Grant that the N.C. Department of Commerce gave Raytheon for the 800 jobs the company claims it will create in Asheville over 10 years.

And when its current agreement with Buncombe County expires, Raytheon may well ask for more. In the mid-1990s, the company threatened to move its headquarters out of state unless Massachusetts provided additional concessions. After a prolonged public relations campaign, Raytheon won, saving millions of dollars in corporate income taxes.

Similarly, General Dynamics, another of the largest U.S. defense contractors, demanded $60 million in tax rebates from Maine to keep Bath Iron Works in the state. After citizens protested, the dollar amount was lowered to $45 million. I suspect that Raytheon will be back to request additional “assistance” a decade hence.

A question of priorities

The sad truth is, the Raytheons of the world don’t care much about the people who live in the places where they operate. Their main goals are generating profits and gaining political influence. Period. And their already ample profits are substantially inflated by our federal, state and local tax dollars.

To be clear, Raytheon is not some small business that makes uniforms or prepares provisions for soldiers. It’s a megacorporation that uses the promise of jobs to fill its and its shareholders’ pockets.

It isn’t helping us move toward a green economy or find solutions to the climate crisis. It’s not helping to bolster the essential social safety net in communities across the country.

Instead, this company is promoting war and instability worldwide — serving itself and the military-industrial complex while eating up resources, at all levels of government, that could be used to meet the actual needs of humanity and the planet. For all these reasons, both Reject Raytheon AVL and I say, “No thank you, Raytheon.”

Melody Shank, a retired professor of education, has lived in Swannanoa since 2014.

 

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15 thoughts on “Just say no to Raytheon Technologies

  1. kw

    We should definitely vote against any commissioners who enabled Raytheon when we could have worked to attract far more wonderful companies that would have enhanced and even unified our area without giving millions of dollars in handouts to the rich fossil-fueled grifters who merely wish to rape our environment and take what they can get. I’m especially disappointed in Brownie Newman and Jasmine Beach-Ferrara.

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  2. T D

    300 signatures out of 91,000+ citizens in AVL Obviously you don’t speak for the majority.

    • Lattie Honeycutt

      Lived here since 2014, wow that’s long enough to be an expert on the area. I’ve lived here for 68 years and I’ve viewed flat landers moving here leaving problem cities to come here and bring with you the crap you left behind. You’ve taken over our political positions and enforce your thoughts and opinions into our area. You’ve inflated prices to the extreme that the locals born here along with their ancestors can no longer afford to live here. Now you want to oppose a company that will provide jobs and income for area because they produce war supplies. You damn sure need to get to know your country. America has always been profitable from wars. Our CIA even creates wars in other countries so the more favorable political side can gain or remain in power. America is and has been a war machine so why is it wrong for North Carolina to be the manufacturer? Why give this opportunity to another state? Your 300 signatures is only a fraction of the areas populations opinion and isn’t the opinion of the majority. I say to you find yourself another cause to voice your opinion on , possibly you could be of benefit to someone.
      Latt

    • indy499

      Thank you. I thought it funny the old Shank apparently thought 300 was an impressive number.

    • NFB

      This was Buncombe County Commission. So, make that 300 signatures out of 270,000 citizens.

  3. Local Grandad

    Even better, Shank admitted that most signatures were tourists who signed on the sidewalk. There was audible laughter in the room. Bless her heart.

  4. Shultz!

    That same factory could build parts for space exploration or a 100 other non-military things. Build the facility, train and employ the populace, then vote the federal budget turn their makings to better things. You have the power.

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  5. John

    As a recent citizen of Asheville (2020) I welcome Raytheon to our community. It’s important that industries other than tourism are established here. If the politicians want money for their social programs (we can debate those later) then they should welcome the additional tax revenue.

  6. Ken

    The comments above that are so critical of this article make me wonder if those making the comments actually read the op ed beyond the first paragraph. The central idea – that subsidizing a multi-billion dollar multinational corporation that makes war machines and contributes to the climate emergency – is blithely ignored. To base one’s criticism solely on the number of respondents to a survey is shallow and non-responsive to the crux of the matter: Pratt & Whitney (Raytheon) is exploiting our community. Its only local currency is the promise of jobs and even that is suspect. There are much better ways for the Buncombe County Commission to invest in job creation. Read the whole article and engage honestly with the real issues.

  7. Anne Craig

    I suggest that those who think bringing a fossil fuel intensive weapons manufacturer here that required clear cutting 100 acres of forest bordering the French Broad River is a great idea for the economic vitality of our region, check out these websites: https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/?msclkid=4768e75fd14911ecb0d1f88462fcadd2 or . https://ceobs.org/how-does-war-contribute-to-climate-change/?msclkid=1fc98725d14a11ecb21701421493e443
    Sure, we can keep going in the same direction of being a war driven country and economy and we’ll wind up where were headed….increasing climate disasters , human suffering and ecological decline. Humanity has the creativity and the smarts to change direction. People of deep conscience such as Melody have the courage to speak out for the sake of survival and for the protection of our beautiful area. We can bring jobs here that are part of the sustainable and peaceful direction that we so need to adopt.

  8. Soothsayer

    Highly skilled labor, engineering, robotics, and benefit rich jobs are warmly welcomed here. We cannot live off of tips from the restaurant and hotel industries alone.

  9. Anne Craig

    I thought I posted a comment but I don’t see it here. So, I’ll try again. There’s an old saying that goes something like, ‘if you don’t change direction, you’ll wind up in the direction you’re headed.” We are headed toward increasing climate change fueled natural disasters because we seem unable to change the direction of our thinking and thus our actions. War and militarism fuel, not only human disaster, but climate disaster and ecological decline. Humans have the creativity and smarts to mitigate these crises if we show the will. Building a fossil fuel intensive factory, whose products will contribute to climate change and war is not in the best interest of our county or our country. Check out: https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/figures. There are industries that provide good paying jobs that can contribute to a resilient and sustainable society. Those are the types of industries our county commissioners should support being brought to our area. Melody’s commentary was eloquent and courageous…facing this controversy in a thoughtful and factual manner.

  10. gwerhan

    In addition to the present facts and circumstances cited in Melody Shank’s Commentary, consider these relevant statements from experienced, thoughtful and respected leaders from several decades ago.
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    President Eisenhower warning about the military industrial complex in his farewell address, 1961:
    “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.’
    ‘In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.’
    ‘We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
    ——————————–
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from his sermon, “Beyond Vietnam”, 1967:
    “…a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death,”
    ——————————-
    President John F. Kennedy in a speech to the United Nations, 1961:
    “Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.”
    ——————————-
    The circumstances of Raytheon coming to our community represent the very essence of what General Eisenhower was warning about. The current US military budget of $768,000,000,000 (BILLION!) and position as the world’s largest user and purveyor of war machinery is proof that the “imperative need” has been surpassed through out of control spending that’s resulting in our nation’s spiritual death. And… the consequences of mankind continuing in this manner are starkly evident.
    When the truth-tellers among us are successful, mankind will thank them. If mankind fails to act on their truths, there will be only silence.

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