Readers contribute to the ITFederal discussion
– Our Editorial Board decided to post this portion of an exchange in the “Comments” section to our Story “Council bids Farewells – continues sparring over ITFederal” in our “Opinion” section because of the breadth of issues addressed in this portion of a discussion with local citizen and businessman George McIntyre. If this portion of what “Comments” participant Michael Graham termed an “informative and spirited discussion” piques your interest, we suggest you visit the story and read the full exchange of “Comments” following it – and if so moved, add your own thoughts to the conversation. – Roger Bianchini
The Public Discussion of ITFederal is counterproductive
Reader’s Comment, George McIntyre
Roger, I feel like the Councilwoman is carrying her concerns too far down the public pike.
In the past process of courting a prospect, most of the information was done quietly and professionally. Today’s media, of all kinds, carries the information out into the public before the courtship and its results culminate. In other words, in the past, professional courtesy becomes more important than the sensationalism and public scrutiny that exists today. Once the EDA has completed their mission on behalf of our community for a new business, the information can be told to the public. – This works, rather than upsets or insults a prospect and forfeit what they may offer our community. I can say, without hesitation and experience, this works.
The marketing of SHELL BUILDINGS has worked for many years, in Warren County and throughout the country. This approach offers prospects an opportunity to finish an empty warehouse building and move their business in quickly. Most of our industrial parks have done this with public, as well as private investments, even in the current year. This is the perfect way to introduce new business into our community. This is especially true about moving into a condemned property, like we have here. This also keeps the cost down for our community.
Ask some of the current successful businesses that live, work, employ and play here how much of their private information and contracts were questioned? Ask the Virginia State Department of Economic Development in Richmond; ask Bryan Schull, former EDA Director; and Stephen Heavener, a very successful EDA Director about this – worst case scenario: we become owners of buildings for the future; best case scenario: successful business, jobs, growth, taxes and a positive image of our community and more move their businesses here.
As we saw in the recent elections, all the sensationalism created by public involvement and done “on behalf of our community” is working against us, as far as separation. Just like pretending the elimination of cameras at the Gazebo is going to save someone’s rights. Working on BEHALF of our community and all the residents says NOT.
We want ITFederal here. If we are upsetting him, then stop and move forward. As the Branding Committee says, ONWARD!
Thanks for wanting to see Front Royal and Warren County continue to strive forward and remain “A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE”.
Who is to Blame for the Public Discussion of ITFederal?
Writer’s Reply, Roger Bianchini
George, as for the role of “today’s media” carrying information “out into the public before the courtship and its results culminate” – I don’t believe it is the media’s role to suppress available information of public interest to citizens that information impacts. And I would hope you agree that it is, indeed, the business of elected officials to be informed of the dynamics of economic development being recruited by their own quasi-governmental agencies created to do so – in this case the Town-County Economic Development Authority.
But I also understand the need for privacy in early business negotiations to keep from undermining those deals during their early stages. My expectation as a Town citizen is that the Town’s elected officials would be informed behind closed doors about those early-stage dynamics that will impact the future of the community they are elected to represent. – As you note, THAT is an important function of Closed Sessions.
Judging from the public discussion, in the case of the Town of Front Royal, the EDA, ITFederal and Royal Phoenix that has NOT happened – not even in the wake of Councilwoman Egger’s publicly voiced questions of October 24. That vacuum of internally-circulated substantive information surrounds publicly-available information, much of it cited by Egger on October 24. As we have previously reported, that information revolves around funding sources for the project such as the previously undisclosed EB-5 visa program under the auspices of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; ITFederal’s contract base and its financial ability to accomplish what has been publicly promised; ITFed CEO Tran’s purchase of other Town land for other business purposes unrelated to the Royal Phoenix plan; and how those peripheral purchases were financed and might impact the plan for 30-acre Lot 6 at Royal Phoenix.
I contend these are legitimate inquiries for a member of Town Council. – Where the fault lies that those questions were not INITIALLY addressed in CLOSED SESSION with the EDA remains to be seen; however, I would suggest the fault lies with Council itself.
I say that because Council discussion since October 24 indicates an apparent 5-member majority does NOT believe it is their responsibility to stay informed in Closed Session or elsewhere about what the EDA is doing on the Town’s behalf. That stance has been repeated both during and after work session and meeting discussions since Egger went public with her questions.
Should Ms. Egger have first requested a joint Closed Session of Council and the EDA to discuss her and her constituents’ concerns? – Probably.
But if she had, would a Council majority have agreed to such a meeting? – My guess is NOT. I base that guess not only on the above-referenced Council comments, but also upon the fact NO such Closed Session appears to have occurred in the seven weeks since Egger first publicly confronted the EDA Executive Director about details of the ITFederal project.
After all, Councilman Tewalt has publicly stated he doesn’t believe Avtex redevelopment and EDA marketing of the property, or anything else the EDA now does on the Town’s behalf is any longer any of Council’s business. And Councilman Hrbek has publicly stated he believes it IS the media’s job, not Council nor perhaps even the EDA’s, to vet a company Council and the EDA immediately loaned $10-million in September 2015; and officially endorsed in November 2015. That latter act, approving Council’s first Resolution of Support of ITFederal, according to the EDA Executive Director, was made in order to achieve the bank loan of $10-million for the company, so that the Town’s $10-million “bridge” loan would not have to become more than a “bridge” to the bank loan, and be kept and used for the planned ITFederal construction project.
Has there been any other Council voice contesting Tewalt and Hrbek’s lack of interest in seeking details on the EDA’s recruitment of ITFederal to the Royal Phoenix site? – NONE that I have heard; and I’ve been listening pretty closely.
In such a vacuum, one might suggest a malfeasant vacuum, of public responsibility should we be surprised things took the public turn they did?
And once they did, George, what would you suggest is the role of media present when these questions were publicly posed? Should we join Council’s five-member majority and put our heads in the sand and pretend we didn’t hear them or have no interest in the answers?
I would contend in the perhaps disappearing world of independent, investigative journalism that Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers believed was a cornerstone – “the Fourth Estate” – of the American Republic, it IS media’s responsibility to seek answers to publicly-discussed questions; and use publicly-available information to seek not only those answers, but also pose new questions the answers to which impact the future of the communities they cover.
Perhaps the questions posed by Egger on October 24 would have best been first discussed in Closed Session with the EDA – they weren’t.
And if the resultant public discussion leads Mr. Tran to “take his promised $40-million investment and go home” – or perhaps elsewhere into the Northern Valley – I would suggest the blame most appropriately be placed on ALL those elected Town officials who do NOT believe it is their job, behind closed doors or elsewhere, to seek relevant information on business recruitment and the use of public funds to foster that recruitment.
After all, it’s only recruitment and financing of the business poised to shape development of a large swath of this Town and community’s employment future – what’s to know, right?