Letter: Pratt & Whitney plant is no great deal for community

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The argument in favor of having the Pratt & Whitney project here always begins (and ends) with the jobs. First of all, let’s be clear about the job schedule proposed by P&W in the $27 million tax incentive agreement given to them by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.

P&W laid out — for illustrative purposes only (no guarantees) — a 10-year plan that would add a few hundred jobs each year, up to [800] jobs, the median of which would be $55,000/year. Pretty good for our tourist economy, but still not great. And not necessarily to be filled by locals. And one of the big reasons P&W is moving here from Connecticut is because the jobs here will not be union jobs.

I am angry about the lack of jobs in this country also. And the desperation that this puts people into. What I see is that this precarity is intentional on the part of the ruling class and corporations because it means they can keep wages low — except where they use the lure of good jobs to ensure a welcome reception for their destructive industries. The end result is the greater and greater wealth inequality that we see now as the 1% lords it over all the rest of us. The game is rigged to exploit us, and the promise of jobs for a few is the currency to get communities to comply.

But, unsurprisingly, “defense” contractors lie. In truth, they don’t offer a great deal at all, especially if you realize, for example, that the $27 million could actually have created many more jobs if the incentives were given to the local economy in areas of education, health, clean energy or just given to people for personal consumption. Research from Brown University’s Cost of War project confirms this. And also not such a great deal if you factor in the costs to our community that P&W conveniently externalizes — the inevitable pollution to our river, the traffic snarls and, of course, the loss of trees and habitat in the private domain of Biltmore Farms.

But what if the starting place were not the promised jobs, but the climate emergency that we are facing right now, which is headed toward our own extinction. Would the measly number of jobs — in the ravenous fossil-fuel-consuming aeronautics industry — warrant contributing to our own demise? And what if the starting place were with the suffering, death and threat we pose to humanity, including ourselves, with our endless wars (for oil) and arms dealing around the world? Are these jobs worth the trade-off for the lives of so many others? And what if the starting place were about the ravages that our ultracapitalist system wreaks upon us as a normal way of operating? Would we be so eager to gobble up jobs offered by Raytheon, the second-largest war profiteer in the world?

I realize all too well that I may be tilting at windmills, that this is a done deal, and there is no way to stop it. And that I will continue to be considered anti-jobs and childishly naive. But the question for me is whether I just watch this all going down and shrug that it’s just the way of the terrible world we live in, or whether I will take a public stance against it and act in the hope for a better world, for now and for all of our children and grandchildren. I choose the latter. I want a sustainable, just and peaceful world for them.

— Ken Jones

Editor’s note: Buncombe County’s resolution authorizing economic development incentives to be paid to Pratt & Whitney calls for the creation of up to 550 jobs at $55,000; up to 100 jobs at $75,000; and up to 150 jobs at $112,000.


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5 thoughts on “Letter: Pratt & Whitney plant is no great deal for community

  1. Mike

    The author makes the same error that AOC did in the Amazon / NYC fiasco.

    The $27 million is NOT a direct financial cost to Buncombe County. It is the (potenial) loss of $27 million in ADDITIONAL tax revenue. If P&W had been told “No Deal. Don’t Come”, there would have been no change it tax revenue (and no jobs and no economic benefit). Under the existing agreement, there will be $27 million less revenue over a period of a few years than there WOULD have been if P&W built the plant WITHOUT the incentive and then there will be substantial INCREASE in tax revenue due to P&W. However, like it or not, incentives DO play a major role in Corporate relocations. So “No Incentives, PERIOD” would very likely had the same result as “No Deal. We don’t want you here”.

    The author goes on to suggest that the $27 million could have been ” just given to people for personal consumption”.

    To that, I respond, Exactly WHAT $27 million?? As explained above the $27 million represents POTENTIAL future tax debt to be forgiven. It should be clear to EVERYONE that without P&W, it would be necessary to raise $27 million in ADDITIONAL taxes from the EXISTING tax payer base in order to give the people $27 million .. Unlike the Federal Government, the County is not (yet) allowed to print money.

    • Ken Jones

      I referred to the $27 million tax incentive agreement given by the BC Commission understanding that it is essentially a means of waiving taxes. But the same incentive could be given to other sectors and create more jobs than P&W will provide. Incentives are an investment in return for local income generated by businesses that are supported by the waived taxes. Of course, I also do not agree with giving tax incentives to a multinational corporation with $100 billion yearly revenue stream in the first place, especially the second largest war profiteer in the world.

  2. Local Grandad

    By now we understand this letter writer is anti-war and anti-national defense and I don’t begrudge him the heartfelt opinion. I do object to his attacks on the company which fly in the face of MTX reporting of the facts. The company offers above-market wages, benefits, upfront investment in employee degrees, and a workplace that has been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as a best place to work. The current local crisis in jobs and affordability seems like an odd time to attack these kind of business practices. It must also frustrate the writer that the company is building a LEED certified plant – recognized by the US Green Building Council for best practices in materials, energy efficiency and sustainability. Or that local workers will be making engine parts that reduce the fuel consumption and emissions of air travel by some 50%. Again, this is progress that we celebrate in Asheville. I encourage the writer to keep working for a better world – just not at the expense of his neighbors here in Buncombe who will benefit from the opportunity.

    • Ken Jones

      Raytheon is well known for its greenwaashing. To see the truth about its effect on people and the environment, you need only look at what happens to the earth and people around the world when its missiles and F-35s wreak their death and destruction. We need good jobs in Asheville, but there are better options than generating wars and exacerbating the climate crisis. I’m sure the French Broad will also be adversely affected. Raytheon also has a long history of contamination at its sites which have resulted in over 90 law suits.

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