ConAgra's announced closure of the former Carriage House plants in Dunkirk and Fredonia was an unwelcome jolt to every Chautauqua County resident last week.
We hope the 475 workers and families who now find themselves in economic uncertainty land on their feet. For elected officials at all levels, we hope this wake-up call is the one that finally wakes them from their business-unfriendly slumber.
Good government groups make a good living warning elected officials from the state level all the way down to officials in the smallest villages in New York state that it costs too much to do business here. If you want even more proof, look at the brand-name businesses we've lost over the years. The north county's food processing industry has been decimated. Jamestown's once-thriving furniture industry is a shell of its former self as familiar names have gone out of business. Don't forget, too, the near miss the area had with potentially losing Cummins a decade ago. Those who were in the plant before Gov. George Pataki and Cummins officials announced the plant was remaining open remember the sigh of relief of workers who truly feared their jobs were moving to Indiana.
It's not just the obvious need for less government that hurts business. It's the ever-increasing fees and tax assessments required to feed the government beast that make nearly all of New York state business unfriendly. The large businesses we have left in our midst pay an ever larger share of the cost to pay for our services. Eventually, it's more profitable to do what ConAgra did and move operations to a less costly area.
We know the problems. We don't train enough skilled workers - both in hard and soft skills. We can't guarantee stable water rates - particularly in the north county. Our tax and regulatory environment encourages businesses to flee when we desparately need the jobs they provide. It's difficult to recruit new businesses to replace the old since everyone and their brother knows how expensive it is to own and operate a large business here.
Chautauqua County, and New York state as a whole, have had enough wake-up calls. It's about time we stopped sleeping through them.