Twin Falls Urban Renewal district is placing the local government in direct competition with private businesses. Earlier this year the URD commission voted to spend over $786,000.00 to buy the Dell Computer call center. After finding a tenant for the call center, now to be called the C3 Call Center, the URD is in final negotiation to spend $11,000.00 to market the call center. Really? And are there plans to provide the same level of marketing dollars for all the businesses in the Twin Falls area, in and out of the district? Answer: no.
According to minutes from the September 1, 2010 URD meeting, the targeted market for the advertising campaign will contain “action items (that) include working closely with C3, SIEDO, congressional and legislative groups and individuals to promote the activities and ongoing ramp of new employees at C3.”
During the meeting, state representative and URD Board Member Leon Smith stated that “creating jobs is not the primary focus of the URA. The URA’s purpose is to improve blighted and deserted areas.” Yet that is exactly what this marketing campaign is designed to do – fill the C3 Call Center and promote what a wonderful job the URD did in attracting the call center.
The definition of “blight” and “development of deserted areas” needs to be clearly defined in Idaho statute – and hopefully elected officials will FINALLY put limits on urban renewal. Twin Falls is just a case in point: The idea of a URD spending taxpayer money to pay for a “local and national” advertising campaign for a private company flat out smells fishy. Since when is it the government’s job to create an unfair competitive advantage in the private business world? The answer is never. Yet nothing has said that if the property was owned by a private firm, it also would have attracted interest from the call center industry.
According to an interview with the Magic Valley Times News, “The reason we came here is two-fold,” said Richard Mondre, co-chief executive officer of C3, “One, the property is fabulous because it’s well maintained and ready to go. Two, our systems are complex, so we need a ready workforce that can be trained.” Additionally the URD paid a marketing fee to fill the empty building “As part of the agreement, the URA will pay Westerra and CB Richard Ellis $229,000 for their service.” Not too bad of a payout for 6 months of work.