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Monday, January 5, 2009

Brandon Landscapers Work on Madison Sign

One of the Lake Area Improvement Corporation's big improvements this past year was the big new Madison sign on east Highway 34 (as if Prostrollos' great white buffalo wasn't welcome enough). The LAIC does love its banners and signs.

This sign isn't bad. Bold design, impressive rock work... and just wait until they switch on the waterfall this spring!

But an eager reader* points out a less welcome sign about the welcome sign. According to the LAIC newsletter (Sep-Oct 2008, p. 3), all that nice landscaping was done by Oakridge Nrusery and Landscaping from Brandon.

What, didn't Madison Nursery and Landscape pay its Chamber dues this year? What's next, the city buying vehicles from Billion Motors?

I'm sure someone can come up with a good reason the LAIC couldn't stay true to its mission and hire a local outfit to handle the landscaping for this non-essential, non-urgent project. Maybe everyone in Madison with a skidsteer and a shovel was busy that month (maybe that was the week my brother was tied up with the skidsteer putting in the sidewalk the city ordered).

I don't know everything about local economic development. But I do know that when I'm director of the LAIC (and I think I will apply when Dwaine Chapel retires), and I have all those local dollars to spend to promote Madison, I'll get double the impact from those dollars by paying local folks to do the work.

*And no, my eager reader does not work at Madison Nursery and Landscape.

17 comments:

  1. I just totally disagree Cory. Madison has to be a competitive regional player. Stress the competitive, and buying local or hiring local contractors out of some sense of loyalty is just a form of protectionism. Our community will be stronger by being competitive and in turn get work in our surrounding communities, such as Brookings, Dell Rapids or wherever. If the LAIC did competitive bidding then Dwaine did the right thing. Now let's get some jobs! John Hess

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  2. I thought about the competitive bidding side, John. Generally I might agree—government (and the rest of us!) should give high priority to low bids—but I think the LAIC's status as local economic development corporation changes the picture a bit. When your whole mission is local economic development, you have a greater justification (obligation?) to spend that money locally.

    See if this holds water: Suppose Congress passes a $500 billion dollar infrastructure bill to stimulate the economy. SDDoT gets a chunk and takes bids to expand Highway 34. Amert Construction bids $40 million. Some outfit in Winnipeg bids $30 million. Do we take the low bid? Heck no! The point of the money is to stimulate the American economy, not get the job done as cheaply as possible. Sending the money to Canada would defeat the purpose. Nothing against Canada, but they can do their own economic stimulus package.

    That's my line of thinking here. A sign is much less essential than a highway expansion, so the motivation to look outside our local economic pool for a low bid seems even less.

    You and I can shop where we want for competitive prices. But should a quasi-public agency (which gets at least a few public dollars from all of us, including our local landscapers) be sending the message that our local labor force can't get certain jobs done?

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  3. To support Cory's point, one only has to look as far as revitalization efforts taking place in Howard. A significant amount of the development that takes place utilizes local contractors whenever possible.

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  4. I see the LAIC's actions as fair and much more important for us to see ourselves as regional players, not an isolated small town. We are not a stand-alone community that can provide all its own needs, but instead interdependent, and to some extent a second-tier bedroom community to Sioux Falls. Local businesses should be utilized when they are competitive, otherwise they need to adapt and find their own markets. That's not mean, it's healthy.

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  5. pennypincher1/05/2009 5:57 PM

    Good article Corey! I wonder what the reason was? It's not like Brandon is a next door neighbor.

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  6. Anon 6:32, if we as a community need a community job done such as the landscaping in question, and we don't have the business capable of performing such job, then we would have to look outside the community. However, if we have the personnel or busineses capable of performing such job, we should use our own local talent. Isn't that what the purpose of the Lake Area Improvement Corporation is, to promote and improve our own community? Last I checked the map, Brandon wasn't quite part of our Lake area. It is growing, but not quite that fast!

    A sign is nice and all that BTW, but what actual good does it do in the whole scheme of things to get businesses to locate in Madison? Not much IMO. But hey, maybe some company will take one look at that sign and say, "Wow, doesn't matter what the schools, activities, churches, work force are in Madison - this sign has won me over!"

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  7. Speaking of signage, how about replacing those ugly green County signs at the county borders on hway 34, 81 & 19 with something bigger and more descriptive that promotes Lake County, instead of just the words, LAKE COUNTY. Our current signs are so old, only the "A" shows up at night on hway 34 east. All the other reflective material has worn off. For less than $600, all four signs could be replaced with larger, image-building Lake County signs.

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  8. I wasn't aware that Lake County needed image building.

    That $600 could be spent in a far better manner.

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  9. We don't have an image problem, but larger, self-promoting signs would set us apart from all the other counties across South Dakota. It is free advertising for decades as traffic passes by the signs. Right now, they simply mark the outskirts of the county. Is it wrong to ask our signage to promote rather than just inform? Many of us are very proud of our county's diversity of assets.

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  10. Competitive bids aren't the bottom line here. Even if the Brandon landscapers were able to do the job for less, I'm betting that exactly $0 of that money will end up back in Madison. It'll mostly end up in the coffers of Brandon and Sioux Falls.

    If the local landscaper had gotten the job, chances are much much better that a good portion of the LAIC money spent on the project would get turned over many times right here in Madison.

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  11. I totally agree with you Erin! By the way, does anyone know why the LAIC has not implemented local hiring incentives for the displaced Gehl workers like they did for Rosco and Artic Cat?

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  12. I generally agree with Cory on this one. My only qualification is what should be considered local is simply anyone who is likely to be spending their money back in the target region. So Sioux Falls contracting out to companies in Brookings or Yankton would still be local to me since people living there are fairly likely to be spending a decent amount of their money back into Sioux Falls. It would only go in one direction though. Money sent from Madison to a Sioux Falls company probably won't ever be seen in Madison again.

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  13. I'm very firm on this. Here's an example. Three years ago I called our former glass store for a large job and explained I would rather hire locally but needed to get another competitive bid. They gave me their estimate and asked me to call them back to let them know regardless. They were about 35 or 40 percent more than Brookings. When I called they asked if they matched Brookings could they do the work? I was peeved off because they knew they were overcharging or they wouldn't have wanted to do the work at the much lower rate. I did not feel supported by this local business and felt better paying the Brookings people who were courteous and professional. Business has to be competitive to survive (and thrive). Recently I tried to sell a house and put way too big a price on it. Guess what? It didn't sell until stupid me accepted my mistake and lowered the price.

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  14. More babble: striving for fairness brings out the best in people, not a sweet deal for a local developer or a sweet deal for a local landscaper. The Denver International Airport remained unopened for a year and a half because they wanted to encourage minority contracts and gave the baggage system to an unqualified company that screwed it all up. Rewarding excellence, or at least competence and adequate results is a better way. John Hess

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  15. John,

    I will agree with your last statement, but I would like to know in what ways have people and businesses in Madison not been excellent, competent, or adequate when it comes to landscaping?

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  16. Kearin,

    I can't talk specifics. But if our local contractors are either not qualified or not competitive then they must learn to be or it's acceptable to hire people from out of town. If the LAIC did competitive bidding, then fair is fair.

    jh

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  17. Opinions and facts... we each have the freedom of stating our opinions and at the same time facts are facts. Facts can support opinions or wash them away. If there was a bidding process on this project, what did the bids come in at? And then if there wasn't a competitive bidding process, why not?

    Sometimes those observations that look a little cloudy at first sight just need time to see what fruits they will bear. If a person invests their resources right here in town the have a better ability to see what kinds of fruit is produced. Then... if you do invest in Brandon, it will seem to take a bit looks for those fruits to return to Lake Area. Sometimes it is better to “live for today”.

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