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Bacon vs The Council

baconSo here’s what Fremont city council candidate  Vinnie Bacon said at last night’s council meeting (give or take a word or two) that so angered the council members:

Our top priority should be to restore the manufacturing jobs that were lost to the closure of NUMI.  When it became clear that NUMMI would close, our city government should have been in crisis mode to try to save these jobs or to find an opportunity to replace them.

Instead our city council saw the closure of NUMMI as a opportunity to try once again fulfill their dream of a ballpark in Fremont…

Staff was ordered to work in secret and spend more than $150,000 on the ball park idea that would not create any manufacturing jobs and would actually deter manufacturers from locating at the site.

It is also worth noting that Lew Wolff has said publicly he does not want to come back to Fremont.

4,700 workers are now dealing with the trauma of losing their jobs. In my opinion your actions really let these workers down.

Here is Councilmember Anu Natarajan’s response:

I completely resent the comments that we seem to hear especially from people running for political office that the city did nothing at all to save NUMMI — that we somehow simply sat here and had them walk away impacting 4700 jobs…

The city did as much as it could. The state did as much as it could. In the end it was a private business making a business decision. And, to turn that around and use that for political reasons is totally resentful. It angers me that that is being done.

And here’s Councilmember Bill Harrison’s response:

I don’t care if you’re running for State Assembly or City Council, for 25 years the city projected NUMMI with a barrier around it. And there’s probably  been a dozen times that people would have built residential housing right across the street from NUMMI, and the city stood up to protect the 4700 jobs plus jobs that went in there.

And here’s the mayor’s response:

The people who suggested that the council did nothing to help  NUMMI  knew absolutely nothing of what they were talking about. They don’t know what we do. They don’t know the history of NUMMI.

We have gone out of our way to keep NUMMI here to meet there special needs.

Matt Artz

67 Comments

  1. I completely disagree with the notion that new manufacturing wouldn’t help Fremont’s economy. The effects of the NUMMI closure will be felt far and wide. For example, I heard just this week from a florist and a salon owner, both in Fremont, who said that the loss of NUMMI is already significantly affecting their business.

    I also disagree with the idea that pursuing manufacturing is a waste of time. The conference I attended last week (http://www.bacon2010.com/blog/?p=147) talked about the importance of restoring manufacturing at the national level which is why the U.S. Department of Commerce is interested in NUMMI. Many economists have opined that the decline in U.S. manufacturing is a key factor in our current economic downturn. I am optimistic that the U.S. can show ingenuity and restore much of the manufacturing that we’ve lost. I would like to see Fremont be a big part of that recovery.

    As to what type of manufacturing we should try to attract, there are many possibilities that we can and should be pursuing. Last week’s conference featured panelists from six different types of businesses (alternative fuels, fiber-optic communications, medical devices, solar panels, green building materials, and drugs) that all do manufacturing here in the Bay Area. Should we be talking to Siemens about manufacturing high-tech rail cars here? Yes. Should we be talking to Tesla and other car manufacturers? Yes. Should we be looking at what green tech manufacturers are out there? Yes. Should we be investigating what site improvements potential manufacturers would want to see? Yes. I could go on.

    My main issue with what the City did is that instead of doing the type of work mentioned above, they put their efforts into bringing the ballpark idea back to life. The ballpark is a long shot at best. Lew Wolff has said he’s not interested. The plan was based on the wild assumption that the County would put up the few hundred million dollars needed to buy the land. Even if successful, this would not have resulted in new manufacturing jobs.

    Finally, the way in which the City did the ballpark analysis is very telling. Instead of announcing to the public what they had in mind, they did the ballpark study in secret. What kind of a City government spends months of staff time and over $150,000 in consulting fees pursuing a major idea like this without letting their constituents know what they are doing?

  2. On another note regarding business…Forbes lists the top cities for business and careers:
    http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/13/forbes-best-places-for-business-washington-best-places-for-business.html

    “The top Golden State locales were San Francisco (ranked 38th) and San Jose (ranked 48th). Economy.com figures that San Fran and San Jose are the two most expensive cities in the country in terms of living costs. Business costs for both are also in the top five. Yet the Bay Area and Silicon Valley are able to overcome these onerous costs thanks to a strong university presence and an abundance of cultural and recreational opportunities that attract a highly educated labor supply. The economies of both areas are expected to be among the 10 most vibrant over the next three years with annual gross metro product growth of 5.8% in San Jose and 5.7% in San Francisco.”

  3. I have argued that even if we were able to bring manufacturing jobs to Fremont, the economic impact would be minimal if that process was not complimented by the creation of other benefits to living here. I say this because the traditional benefits to living in Fremont – good schools and relatively lower cost of housing – are normalizing with respect to the greater Bay Area.

    A greater effort needs to be made toward making Fremont a desirable place to live. Your vision, Vinnie makes Fremont a dandy place to work, but if the NUMMI population was any indicator, the majority of workers will chose to live somewhere else (12% of NUMMI’s workforce lives in Fremont, as reported on this Blog).

    Considering resident tax revenue from sales, income and residential property compiled with per pupil funds from the state, I suspect the economic impact of a growing population of earners is greater compared to filling industrial space alone.

    My further point was that considering the historic levels of vacant commercial space in Fremont, building even more commercial space at NUMMI is a tremendous waste an valuable asset.

  4. Marty, I’m curious. What do you think would make Fremont a more desirable place to live? What cities do you consider desirable places to live?

  5. It would be interesting to see the stats on where Fremont residents do work and how far they travel daily.

    I know a large percentage of our police and firefighters live elsewhere. How about teachers? The more senior teachers probably live here, but the younger ones most likely do not. And those that retire move to Livermore or Pleasanton.

    How often has it been said on this blog that everyone seems to shop, dine and find their entertainment elsewhere. So what does that leave? Oh yeah, they sleep in Fremont.

  6. It would be interesting to see the stats on where Fremont residents do work and how far they travel daily.

    I know a large percentage of our police and firefighters live elsewhere. How about teachers? The more senior teachers probably live here, but the younger ones most likely do not. And those that retire move to Livermore or Pleasanton.

    How often has it been said on this blog that everyone seems to shop, dine and find their entertainment elsewhere? So what does that leave? Oh yes, they sleep in Fremont.

  7. Charlotte, I have often linked Fremont to San Jose in the 1980s, at a time when San Jose mirrored our sprawling and dissociated suburb. Since then SJ has put a tremendous amount of resources into improving the draw for employers *and residents*.

    Not only did the SJ RDA aggressively pursue the 100 or so employers who now define the south bay area tech culture, but they developed in parallel entertainment, sports, art and cultural offerings to ensure that the people who were hired into the emerging technology economy were also compelled to live in San Jose.

    So, for a start, I’d consider San Jose a more desirable place to live in many respects. I’d also consider the emerging technology regions around the country who are adopting the same principals as San Jose more desirable places to live, at least from the perspective of a geographically mobile tech professional.

    What I see from Bacon and McDonald is timid vision. They both like the idea of “green tech” though have yet to define what that means to them – and how it should effect the culture of Fremont. I am not expecting either to tell the future, but what technologies are they talking about that are available today? What is the vehicle to becoming this supposed center for green technologies?

    Furthermore, if 3 or 4 manufacturing outfits were to come to Fremont and employ 4,000 people, and only 12% ended up living here, would their goals be met? What is the tangible improvement to Fremont in that case?

    If I am supposed to believe that a city council is supposed to effect any meaningful change, then I think some of these questions need to be addressed. Because from my point of view, we had an interesting vehicle for transforming the future of Fremont, and many objected in the interests of preserving the status quo, and I don’t think they should be rewarded for it.

  8. Re post #53 –

    That there is considerable vacant space in Fremont does not confirm or refute demand for such space. There are deals being struck all over the Bay Area for emerging businesses . . . . there are also businesses failing –

    The point is – find out what we are lacking (Here’s a clue – you dont ask local BLOGGERS to explain what’s wrong with your offerings – hell you dont even ask the local City Council candidate for an answer to this question – – – – think hard now – who would be a really really good prospect to ask these kinds of questions of ?)

    What would it take for someone like Abbott Labs to relocate or expand into one of our empty tilt-ups ? They have several manufacturing groups here in the Bay Area – – – – what would it take for them to consider our space ?

    (That’s just a random example – – – I’ll bet someone who has the JOB of developing and courting tenants into fremont could come up with many dozens more. )

  9. Andy man, your point is taken. Maybe there are different types of manufacturing out there, not just auto? Solar for instance. Today, I saw an article in the Mercury News that says that California is leading the nation in solar installations. See:

    Solar Industry remains a bright spot in the economy
    http://www.mercurynews.com/search/ci_14891742?nclick_check=1

    Excerpt:

    One beneficiary of the rapid growth was Foster City-based SolarCity, which pioneered a no-money-down solar lease for homeowners. It nearly doubled its work force to 600 last year, according to spokesman Jonathan Bass.
    “About half of the jobs are installing jobs, and we’ve hired people from the construction and roofing industries. The balance of the jobs are in sales and marketing and engineers. These are full-time jobs with full benefits and 401(k)s.”

    Bass said the new hires were spread across the company’s five-state market area of Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and Texas, as well as California. He said SolarCity expects to add at least 250 additional employees in 2010.

    San Jose-based SunPower, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, also plans to add jobs in 2010. Much Advertisement of the company’s manufacturing is done in the Philippines, but SunPower plans to announce a U.S. manufacturing facility soon.

    “We plan to add 100 U.S. manufacturing jobs by the end of the year,” said Julie Blunden, SunPower’s vice president of public policy and corporate communications.

    California continues to dwarf other states in terms of the amount of solar power installed, which includes the residential, commercial and utility-scale markets. The Golden State installed 220 megawatts of solar electric systems in 2009, followed by New Jersey with 57 and Florida with 36.
    California continues to dwarf other states in terms of the amount of solar power installed, which includes the residential, commercial and utility-scale markets.

    Why can’t it be Fremont? We already have Solyndra which is expanding (at least looking at their new building coming up). Can’t the clowncil create this as the priority to replace lost jobs? Better tech/manufacturing jobs for the people who have the skills and can be retrained, but don’t have NUMMI any more.

  10. “…we had an interesting vehicle for transforming the future of Fremont, and many objected in the interests of preserving the status quo.”

    Many objected because ballparks are a financial iceberg. Only a portion of the real costs to the local taxpayers is seen in advance. Team owners know once they are in there’s not much a municipality can do other than to keep feeding the beast for fear of financial ruin. The idea of a ballpark being the draw is the proverbial cart before the horse. The saying, “build it and they will come,” only applied to the movie which had a very appropriate name, Field of Dreams.

  11. “…we had an interesting vehicle for transforming the future of Fremont, and many objected in the interests of preserving the status quo.”

    Based on the growth of Marty’s favored city (San Jose) – public stadia would appear to be one of the very LAST additions to your community growth plan – preceded by multiple institutions of higher learning, a municipal airport . . . . . .

    Far more importantly, the conclusion that many objected “..in the interest of preserving the status quo.” is completely unsubstantiated and speculative. . . . . a majority of those voices I have heard or read objected in the interest of a prospective negative economic consequence to our community or to their businesses as well as (for many) a perceived compromise to a variety of quality-of-environment and personal issues.

    The realities of these expressed objections stand in stark contrast to Marty’s generalized assumption of the “no growth” absolute Marty (and council incumbants) would like you to accept.

  12. For those on the city council or not, who claim everything was done that could be to save NUMMI: I find that very hard to believe in light of comments I heard from the Mayor, about a year ago. I overheard him speak (with a gleam in his eye and a smile, no less) about how exciting it would be if NUMMI left. How can we expect a person who gets so excited about NUMMI leaving, to really do their best to help them stay?

    I don’t know that Fremont could have kept NUMMI no matter what was tried, but for those saying show me evidence they didn’t do all they could, I say show me evidence they did do all they could! Certainly whatever was tried was not widely shared (i.e. secret, or effectively secret). With so many technological tools for easily gathering ideas and communicating, this city council and mayor ignored the opportunity to bring in the mighty creative power of the smart people that live in in Fremont. Further, they failed to share what WAS being tried. How can they sleep at night!

  13. Manufacturing is dead . .

    No reason to waste time or resources looking for manufacturers, no one can possibly expect to make money in the Bay Area labor market –

    On the other hand – here’s a company that manufactures stuff.

    They’re building a new facility in San Leandro.

    Wonder if they considered Fremont.

    Wonder what it would have taken to entice them to locate here.

    Wonder if we paid someone a comission or performance bonus for bringing manufacturing companies who sign a new lease (or acquire land) in Fremont (as opposed to paying someone hourly for time in their seat) if we would avail ourselves of any heretofore unheard of opportunities.

    http://www.insidebayarea.com/search/ci_14900157?IADID=Search-www.insidebayarea.com-www.insidebayarea.com

  14. “They’re building a new facility in San Leandro.”

    That makes sense. If you don’t live in Niles or the Mission hills, you might as well be living in San Leandro.

  15. Small businesses are responsible for 80% of our nation’s employment. What has current leadership done to support small businesses? No much, unless you are the developers or have close business tie to current status quo. Small businesses are known to have long history of being driven underground here in Fremont. I suppose we are not the “WOW” project that FRED or the councils are looking for.

  16. “If you don’t live in NIles or Mission Hills, you might as well be living in San Leandro . . . ”

    ESPECIALLY true if our career development plans for Fremont citizens are quickly served up as part-time-no-benefits vendor “jobs” at the stadium . . . . but, maybe, just maybe – we find out what businesses want in a community – work towards that vision, and maybe bring a few mid-market skilled jobs to the community – and then maybe folks have a reasonable chance at returning value to their homes and communities . . .

    Why do these factions continue to remain so fixated on the one and only big idea (of someone elses’ creation) that they’ve bumped into in the night – – – and ignore and even discount the opportunities that DO exist ? Sure – it’s tough work and there’s loads of competition and even a healthy dose of risk -BUT, that’s why we hire really great civic minds and staff – to perform this hard work and bring value to our community !

    If it was easy – anybody could make $80k a year doing it !

  17. And, yet another missed real-estate opportunity for Freemont. While not a “manufacturer” in the strictest of senses, this food processor ships in raw materials and produces finished goods.

    Can’t help but wonder what motivated this business to finally choose Hayward over Fremont. Seems like price was a tipping point but could it be that with all the empty space available in our fair city, Hayward could beat us out ??

    “The buyer was in the market for about a year,” said Kevin Hatcher, a senior associate with Colliers. “They looked up and down the 880 Corridor, from Oakland to Fremont.”

    http://www.contracostatimes.com/business/ci_16959705?nclick_check=1

    The important point here is that our “visionaries” incessantly whined about the demise of Bay Area manufacturing and questioned how they’re gonna fill the vacant real estate in the Fremont area and (frequently) used this rather limp excuse as a partial rationalization for their rabid pursuit of a stadee-umm.

    Meanwhile – others are tapping into a re-emergence of a new economy. . . .

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