Friday, November 28, 2014

Economic Development in the 19th Century

The saga of the proposed Ginsberg's expansion continues. In the latest episode, the Claverack Planning Board voted 6 to 1 to approve the project, while the Ghent Planning Board voted 5 to 1 to deny approval. What rankles many about this project is the apparent expectation on the part of Ginsberg's that the expansion will be financed by public funding and tax credits. What disappoints many is the threat that Ginsberg's would leave Columbia County if they were offered better incentives elsewhere. 

This morning, Gossips was reminded of the Ginsberg's situation by this article, discovered in the Hudson Daily Register for November 23, 1869. Bearing the headline "A Chance for Hudson Enterprise," it reports about "the intention of Messrs. Clapp & Jones, Steam Fire Engine builders of New York, to remove their works to this city." The text of the article follows:

A Chance for Hudson Enterprise.
A short time since we announced the intention of Messrs. Clapp & Jones, Steam Fire Engine builders of New York, to remove their works to this city, provided a suitable site could be found and the co-operation of a few capitalists be obtained.
We are now authorized to state that the matter  has assumed a tangible form, and many of our leading capitalists have become interested in the enterprise, not only as a profitable investment but for the general benefit of the city. The plan presented by Messrs. Clapp & Jones is to form a Joint Stock Company, with a capital of $50,000, $20,000 of which they will take themselves, leaving a balance of $30,000 to be subscribed by our citizens. One half of this amount has already been taken, Henry Waterman, Esq., a practical machinist and shrewd operator in the investment of capital heading the list with $5,000. Others have subscribed from $500 to $2,000 each, reaching an aggregate of $15,000. A like amount now remains to be raised. Many of our business men, of moderate means, but with the real interests of the city at heart, have offered to take one, two, and three shares, at $100 each, and in this way we have no doubt the full amount will be subscribed at an early day.
If our citizens are made aware of the importance of this enterprise, we are satisfied they will fill up the list before the week closes. It is not a donation--it is a genuine investment, with a fair prospect of realizing from two to twenty per cent interest. Mr. Waterman has thoroughly investigated the subject, and exhibits his confidence by subscribing one-sixth of the entire amount called for. This should certainly inspire the confidence of others.
Moreover, it will be a practical benefit to every merchant and mechanic in the city. The establishment of these works here will bring not less than fifty families into the city, not loafers or paupers, but first-class mechanics, and citizens who will be of permanent benefit to the place.
But we have little time to make our decision. The city of Bridgeport, Conn., has already pledged the full amount required, but Messrs. Clapp & Jones, being favorably impressed with our location, have reserved the opportunity to us. We trust it will be promptly improved, and thus secure at least one of the inducements held out to us within the past two years to add to the growth and business interests of the city. Whatever action is taken must be done immediately, or, like other enterprises that have been offered, it will pass beyond our control. Let us "strike while the iron is hot," and "be wise in time."
The article contains many truisms that, 145 years later, continue to be basic to economic development: the benefit of a successful business to the community as a whole, the potential to attract desirable new residents, the possibility of losing out to another city. What is different is that in 1869 it seems the "leading capitalists" of Hudson were investing their own money rather than offering public funding and tax incentives.


  1. Thanks, Carole, for noting that "leading capitalists" funded previous economic development and today it's the public trough that businesses come to. Though the argument is the same, the latter method (known, for the most part as PILOTS (Payments In Lieu of Taxes) have become increasingly doubtful propositions, a Robin Hood in reverse (stealing from the poor and giving to the rich), with far fewer accountability measures than those leading capitalists of old probably enforced....

  2. Ah, slings & arrows.
    Yes, NO taxpayer money to fund any business, organization, etc. And no more Grants. I'm tired of paying taxes for funding arts & entertainment too.
    Let 'em get their own financing.
    Remember, we must be fair & equal, no special interest groups allowed.

  3. I love how those who can surely afford it, feel they have a right to obtain the monies they need for growth on our backs! We indeed do pay and pay through higher and higher taxes for all the funding of grants for non profits, arts, entertainment and all the larger corporations too wealthy and greedy to fork over their own monies! Rob your own pockets and grow with your own investments as it's time to end the feeding at the trough!

  4. What, no pilots? Rumor has it that Ken Flood in on tap to host the new game show flip this flop. The show challenges corrupt city officials to see how many times they sell the same property for a loss. They get bonus points if grants are garnered by holding the public hostage at public access points, bridges, parks & wharves.