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As Long as We Remember...

October 27, 2011

Bechtel: The Good and The Bad

Blaine R. Young

If anyone still has any doubts that our leadership in Annapolis just does not get it, their doubts should have been laid to rest with the news of the last week. I’m talking about the payoff to Bechtel.


We all know the economy could be better; and – as a result right here in Frederick County – we’ve seen a number of businesses implement layoffs and or close their doors forever. The list no one wants to be on continues to grow, with the Cracked Claw, Borders, the Deli in downtown Frederick, Danielle’s Restaurant, Knott & Geisbert, Inc., Super Fresh, to name a few off the top of my head; not to mention that over the past several years we’ve lost Eastalco, JP Morgan Chase, BP Solar and Sensata. These are a combination of big and small business; no business is immune from the current economic pressures.


One of our bigger businesses here in Frederick County, and clearly one of the most important to us, is Bechtel. Bechtel came here because of our quality of life and our proximity to the Washington region. Rumors have been flying recently that Bechtel was exploring other long-term options for the divisions now housed in Frederick County. The news of the last week confirmed those rumors.


It certainly was no surprise that our primary competition was the neighboring state of Virginia. Virginia continuously and repeatedly kicks our butts here in Maryland when it comes to attracting employers. Its tax and regulatory policies toward business are much friendlier than Maryland’s; and it aggressively compete, not only to bring in new business, but to steal the jobs from other states. This is not a criticism of Virginia; any job in the United States is fair game.


So, what was the response from our intrepid leadership in Annapolis to the threatened loss of 2,000 jobs in Frederick County? Was it to take a long, hard and serious look at our confiscatory tax policies and our environmental, labor and other regulations that stifle job growth in our state? Were there discussion about reducing the fees, taxes and regulations to improve the business climate, so, not only would Bechtel stay but other large employers might join them here?


Of course not. Instead the “leadership” in Annapolis decided to offer Bechtel a $9.5 million payoff to keep between 60% and 70% of the current employees here. That means that a big chunk of them will be leaving; but it is certainly better to keep as many as we can rather than lose them all.


When you do the math, you see the steep price we taxpayers in Maryland must pay for our anti-business climate, created in this state over the years by the Democrats in Annapolis.


The cost from the state’s “rainy day fund” is $9.5 million. That’s right, a payoff of $9.5 million to an employer not to move to Virginia. The obvious question is who is next? This has had to make every president/CEO and board of directors of every large company in Maryland stop and think they should float the rumor that they are looking to move.


If you employ a bunch of people in Maryland and you have options to move elsewhere, as everyone does, aren’t you going to take a look at this Bechtel bribe and say why not me, too?


Is there going to be a line at the governor’s office from employers with their hand out looking for a payment to keep the jobs here? Believe me; every employer in the state knows what just happened with Bechtel. You can bet that Bechtel is only the first, not the last.


If we had real “leadership” in Annapolis, instead of readying the next payoff to a big company, they would instead be taking a hard look at our anti-business policies with a mind toward real reform rather than just political tricks.


Has anyone seen any major pro-job initiatives on the agenda for the upcoming legislative session? The only thing I see everybody talking about is this new PlanMaryland, which is just another burdensome and stifling regulation on our businesses and taxpayers.


As I said at the beginning, our “leadership” just does not get it. What we need to do as voters and taxpayers is take a real hard look at for whom we are going to vote next time around to lead this state.


Again, I am thrilled that two-thirds of Bechtel’s employees are staying in Frederick County. It’s just make me sad and angry that this is what the state had to do to accomplish it – at the cost to the taxpayers.


Bechtel is the long overdue wake up call to the governor and legislature to do something about the business climate in Maryland during this next legislative session!


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