News, Perception and Public Money

Well, still tethered to the treadmill this morning. And it’s not the cold here in NE Ohio. It’s the snow and ice on the roads. Yet I’m optimistic that spring will get here — eventually.

Not quite as optimistic that we are going to find out anytime soon what is going on with Goodyear and the 5,000 some job cuts that it announced essentially to the financial community late last week. The company declined to disclose where or when the job cuts would take place. And even with some 3,000 Goodyear employees still working in Akron, the Akron Beacon Journal doesn’t appear to be looking into the story any further.

Since the announcement and front-page headline last week, as best I can tell there has only been one additional mention of the job cuts in the ABJ. That came this morning as a brief mention in an op-ed article by E.J. Dionne Jr. of The Washington Post. Dionne was in Akron last week to speak at the Akron Roundtable. So here is the update from Dionne:

But such partisan games seem beside the point when headlines on local papers are typified by Thursday’s banner in the Akron Beacon Journal shouting: ”Goodyear to cut jobs.” It was not clear how many of them would come out of this city, once popularly seen as the rubber industry’s capital, but the company envisions a loss of nearly 5,000 jobs.

OK. Here’s reality. The Akron community at large doesn’t care about the Goodyear jobs or the people who will eventually lose their jobs here — if any. Jobs come. Jobs go. And it only matters if it’s personal — affecting you, a family member, neighbor or friend.

But here’s the rub. Goodyear — with I expect some city and state money and other assistance — still has on the drawing board a major community project that involves building a new headquarters and some other related development activities. When Goodyear made the announcement last week, it was quick to assure everyone that the headquarters project was not at risk. And Akron’s mayor, Don Plusquellic, said the project was delayed due to private developers having difficulty with financing but still a go. Here’s from the ABJ story:

This latest round of cost-cutting will not affect the company’s, and Akron’s, plans to build a new, local corporate headquarters, a company spokesman said.

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic said he was told the headquarters project is still on but has been delayed because the private developers have not been able to get financing related to the global credit crunch. The city government is still proceeding with the public investment portion of the new Goodyear headquarters project, including possible federal stimulus money, he said.

If true, shouldn’t someone be interested in whether or not there will still be 3,000 some people employed by Goodyear in Akron? Particularly if public money is involved. Hey, we’re closing schools here folks.

When the city announced the headquarters project in 2007, here’s what it said:

The existing Goodyear buildings, totaling approximately 800,000 usable square feet, would be converted to a mixed use complex of office, commercial and retail space by IRG. It is estimated by IRG that the mixed use development will create an additional 2,000 jobs with an approximate payroll of $80 million. The new campus of buildings would retain the more than 3,000 jobs at Goodyear totaling an estimated $350 million in payroll.

Let’s see. “Retain the more than 3,000 jobs at Goodyear totaling an estimated $350 million in payroll.”

Still true? My perception is maybe not — and that will be unfortunate for the individual Goodyear employees involved, for the city and for taxpayers.

This is why we need a strong, independent and aggressive news media. In Akron — that means the Akron Beacon Journal. And this isn’t a criticism of the reporters there. We all know that staff cutbacks and other cost-cutting moves have crippled the newspaper. It used to be an excellent regional newspaper. Still, this seems to me to be a story that journalists would want to pursue.

So is someone saying no? Don’t ask. Don’t write.

Is the Goodyear headquarters project still viable in Akron with or without local job cuts?

Gee. I’m forming perceptions that may be totally unfair and inaccurate. But without the information that used to come from reporters, it seems like we are doing that more and more these days. And that’s not a good thing, particularly when public policy, public money and jobs are involved.

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