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I'm making an offer they can't refuse

Dear WNY Development Officials:

Let me assure you that reports of the death of Buffalo Niagara as a welcoming place to do business are greatly exaggerated.

True, Verizon pulled the plug last week on plans for its massive data center in Somerset with its promise of 200 jobs -- and a public incentive package costing $3.1 million per job. That follows your loss of Bass Pro Shops, which abandoned the Buffalo waterfront last fall despite the lure of $35 million in corporate welfare.

All of which justifies your fears about the "black eye" the region will get as news that we can't even buy a business spreads "all over the country," as you lamented to our business reporter.

But from failure comes opportunity. Now that you have all of these economic incentives lying around, I have an offer you can't refuse: Rod's Lemonade.

My lemonade stand fits perfectly with your new philosophy of "lighter, quicker, cheaper." It can be up in no time and is a sure-fire job generator.

I will employ two people to plant the lemon tree, two to pick the lemons, one to wash the lemons, two to run the squeezer, one to add the water and one to add the sugar. There also will be one person to staff the stand.

That's a minimum of 10 new jobs.

Based on Buffalo News analyses of economic-incentive packages and their results over the last few years, that's 10 more than were created by most of the companies you've showered with far more goodies. In fact, one analysis showed that the majority of firms to which you gave millions in tax breaks either failed to meet their job promises or actually cut employment.

In contrast, my 10 jobs will be right out in the open for all to count.

And we all know how important spinoff development is. In this case, there will be new jobs for people who make those itsy-bitsy parasols to place in the glasses.

Beyond that, when people drink, they want to snack. I envision a high-end pretzel shop, a peanut vendor and a potato chip stand. The synergy will be unbelievable. In fact, it's clear that you have never received such a well-thought-out proposal.

And what do I ask in return? No more than you've offered other developers of my stature. To make the numbers work, I will need a property tax abatement on land where I plant the tree. I also will need sales tax forgiveness for shovels, a spade and a hoe, as well as on the sugar. And, as with any such project, I will need an allotment of cheap hydropower to run the electric lemon squeezer.

My back-of-the napkin calculation -- which apparently is all you ask of developers -- indicates that I will need a 15-year package totaling $5 million. That's a mere $500,000 per job -- chicken feed compared with the $3.1 million per job you offered Verizon or the $2.1 million per job you're giving Yahoo.

So have your people sit down with my people, and we can get this done in less time than it takes to hold a Statler bankruptcy hearing.

Let's face it: This area needs a win. It needs a signature project that says to the rest of the world, "We know how to do economic development."

We need something like that dramatic Super Bowl commercial about Detroit's comeback, based on cars.

I can give you the same marketing opportunity based on my lemonade stand: "We're Buffalo Niagara. And this is what we do!"

In closing, please send confirmation of my tax breaks ASAP so I can start reviving Western New York's economy.

Very truly yours,

Rod Watson

President and CEO

Rod's Lemonade LLC


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