Letter: No bailout at Willits
As a long-term business operator in Willits (I signed my lease in 2004 and became a property owner in 2007), I disagree with the idea of taxpayer subsidization for completion of the Willits project.
When I decided to take the chance on expanding my business to Willits, I knew there were risks involved. A new project, relatively high rents and a certain amount of reliance on the success of the project as a whole were some of them. Initially, things were quite good, until 2008 when the economic downturn hit our valley hard. The big concrete hole in the ground for two years served as a daily reminder of the risks that are involved in business. During that time, my business, like many other small businesses, struggled to survive. Some did not make it. But at no time did anyone offer to reimburse me the 50 percent drop in the value of my office space, nor did my banker offer to lower my mortgage rate. I did not run to the Town Council and ask for a tax subsidy. I accepted the struggle as part of doing business, and luckily I survived better off for it.
I appreciate how hard Tim Belinski and his team have worked to find the national retailers everyone thought would follow in Whole Foods’ footsteps. Obviously, this has proved much harder than Mariner and the previous development team anticipated. However, this is not the taxpayer’s problem. I am extremely skeptical that the subsidy and full buildout will be a game-changer in convincing national retailers to locate in Willits. I can’t buy the argument that a subsidy to the developer is all for the common good of the community. To me it’s nothing more than a corporate bailout, and though it might benefit those of us already invested in Willits, I, like Scott from Sure Thing Burger, do not support it.
Let development pay its own way, and let the market dictate its success or failure. Yes, if Mariner fails, it will be a blow to the midvalley for a while. However, at some point another developer who can get the job done without a handout will come forward.