The Absolute, Number One, Most Important, REAL Reason Why the Coal Plant is a Bad Idea

Maybe they weren't paying attention. That's all I can figure, because I know they were there. I saw numerous City employees there.

There? Heck, the City of Great Falls was even a sponsor of Rebecca Ryan when she spoke here nearly a year ago. All I can figure is that somehow the City folks that went and listened to Rebecca just weren't paying attention.

For those of you who didn't attend, Ms. Ryan is an economist. She spoke to a large audience at the Civic Center about recruiting that killer 'young professional' demographic to Great Falls.

She told us about how things had changed over the years. You see, in our parents' era, kids would graduate from college, or trade school, or high school, and they'd pop their heads up and look around to see where the jobs were. Then they would move to where those jobs were, and they'd put down roots.

It's different now. After studying thousands of these younger men and women, Rebecca Ryan named it "Live first, work second." Now these youngsters pop their heads up after college and they look around to see where they want to live. When they get there, then they look for work. They drive the jobs, the jobs don't drive them. The whole model is turned upside down, get it?

So, what would you rather see come to Great Falls, a thousand $12.00 per hour jobs, or a thousand 26-year old college graduates? After all, one could argue that we're more short of people than we are short of work.

When GE was trying to decide between Great Falls and Billings, what were they really looking for? They were looking for workforce. Why do you think GFDA was trying to get us to contact out-of-state friends and family to apply for the GE jobs? Why did they want to flood GE with applications? Because people are the resource, not jobs. It's the people, stupid.

This was confirmed by GFDA's very own Brett Doney in a comment yesterday: "With regard to GE, the $500,000 issue was not the deciding factor. The decision was driven by workforce." We need smart, educated people in our community. Do you know how people always like to say that our kids grow up, go away to college, and then stay away for the higher wages?

Well, according to Ms. Ryan's logic, if they all moved back, year after year, eventually they would get those wages right here in Great Falls. Why? Because if you dump 800 college educated 24-30 year old kids into this community year after year, corporate America will take notice. This is a knowledge economy, and for knowledge you need brains and for brains you need people.

What does all of this have to do with the coal plant, you ask? Live First, Work Second. We're building a coal plant for 50-60 full time jobs. (The cost savings will be negligible. Cut through the funny numbers, like Ed McKnight has done, and we're not going to save enough to justify the investment.)

50-60 full time jobs.

At what cost?

Think about this for a minute. If we're going to recruit bright, well-educated young men and women to our community, who are we competing with? Missoula. Bozeman. Kalispell. Helena. Billings.

As much as I love this community, my hometown, I have to tell you that, for the average 25-year old single male professional, Great Falls over Missoula or Bozeman is a tough sell. (I know, I was one, and I damn near stayed in Missoula.)

So as people look around Montana, looking to relocate, we have an uphill battle. We lack the perceived amenities of many other places.

So what are our leaders proposing to do about this? Build a coal plant.

A coal plant.

We need to recruit from the greenest generation known to man, kids who were raised in the era of global warming and eco-friendly whatever, and we're going to offer them...a coal plant.

Is this the vision our leaders have for our community? A coal town?

I went to Rebecca Ryan's talk. And I did pay attention. She was enthusiastic and she made me enthusiastic. We have some great things here...blue skies, clean water, a river, scenic vistas and...a coal plant. All for 50-60 jobs (and to provide power to Billings and Bozeman).

Is this the vision? Is this truly our future?


Anonymous said...

Of course you're right. Many of us have been saying the same thing for a long time. There is NOTHING prettier than the sky around evening time in Great Falls in the fall. A sky like this exists no where else in the country. Oh sure, it might have at one time. But those skies are all gone in other places. And if fact, there exists no real blue sky anywhere anymore. Not Billings, not Bozeman, and certainly not Missoula except on rare days. It is an everyday occurrence here in GF. And I'll be damned if I'll allow idiots like the ones currently running our city destroy that! It ain't gonna happen. And the vast majority of people in GF feel the same way. And that's what makes what is happening now so incredible. How can this group of morons like donna and lotten and co. be SO unresponsive to the wishes of the citizens of GF? Sumthin' is REAL wrong with our current situation. Gee Guy, nice post. Although I wasn't born here, I love this town. And others will too, like the twenty somehting professionals your talk about. If you build it, they will NOT come!


Anonymous said...

I know you can’t say it, but I will. Follow the money, there are highway men at work here and our city fathers and mothers have hitched their wagons to the coalturds. Payoffs are being made and hidden retirement accounts are being padded.

Dirty money is as work. If this is not the case then these people are the biggest bunch of morons in the country.

Anonymous said...

"Dirty money is as work. If this is not the case then these people are the biggest bunch of morons in the country."

Well said anonymous and a very good thoughful post GeeGuy. I sure am glad you chose GF over Missoula. With intelligence such as yours at work here maybe there is a chance for success for our town.......

WolfPack said...

If a thousand years without a coal plant haven't brought a plethora of educated 20 something’s, why should we believe 10 more years without coal plant will make all the difference. It’s nice to get excited but don’t lose your head in the process by trying to link all concerns to the coal plant.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the strip mining in Cascade County for HGS and CTL....

Anonymous said...

It seems a foundational business structure, needed for enterprising minds, is stifled by the get-something-for-nothing mentality that permeates political thought these days.

So just what are the working demographics of Great Falls?

How many people depend upon Great Falls legislators redistributing the wealth to Great Falls citizens?

Does anyone else find it pathetic that citizens bless the name of a governor who grants a miserly $400 rebate after hording almost a billion dollars of taxpayer money?

Gambling doesn't do a whole lot for the economy as it is parasitic in nature. It creates no economic goods. It creates no real wealth.

Build the soccer/sport plex "they will come..." Fix the pools & golf course and "they will come..." Build a skate park "they will come..." yada yada yada. Oh, and do it all with levies that slowly continue to tax people into poverty.

Then sit by and watch a city commission that believes it can run or take over private industry but it can't even get a city file together for public review.

Even twenty somethings, the smart, intelligent and savvy business minded ones aren't that stupid when it comes to seeing the writing on the wall. They aren't complacent enough to plop their bums down in such a skewed political world.

Maybe electing people who actually have business sense will affect change. But who knows how many generations of entitlement whiners have to die off before that happens.

GeeGuy said...

Please do not over-interpret my remarks, Wolfpack.

I did not say (and I don't think I even implied) that the lack of a coal plant is a panacea for what ails us. The building of one sure is not.

This post is about vision. It is, I think, about an over-arching view of the future of our community. There are reasons why a coal plant is a good idea, and reasons why it is a bad idea.

My point is that, on the whole, the coal plant is a short-sighted solution in search of a problem that could actually hinder the future many of us envision for our community.

Anonymous said...

Wolfpack, it seems to me that you have probably never lived anywhere else in the state. And that's too bad. Things are changing rapidly in GF. You need to get out more, or talk to guys in construction. GF has indeed become a desirable place to live simply because it has many amenities already mentioned, and BECAUSE it is not Billings, Missoula, Bozeman, etc. Gee Guy is exactly right. If you build it, they will not come!


WolfPack said...

Geeguy- The fact that you titled the post "The Absolute. Number One, Most Important, Real Reason..." left (me anyway) the impression that coal plants are a major concern to young professionals making relocation decisions. I thought the point as to why we need to attract young professionals was a good one but the strong tie to the coal plant was a little overreaching. Now if you would have written a post about the Number One reason we need to: replace the Four Seasons Arena, rejuvenate 10th or create a river park (that isn’t just a boat launch) I would have been right there with you. I was one of those young professionals not to long ago and spent time living on both the west coast and the east coast and at no time was I aware of my proximity to a coal plant. I could however tell you where the best mountain bike riding was or who had the best free appetizers for Friday happy hour.

GeeGuy said...

Wolfpack, I think we are discussing two sides of the same coin. Again, I am not arguing that the lack of a coal plant is a huge positive. I am suggesting that the presence of one is a potentially huge negative.

Think in terms of marginal utility. In other words, to the average young adult living in the average community, they probably don't care.

But in terms of comparing communities, the existence of a coal plant will affect the image of our town.

Ms. Ryan made a very convincing argument that our image is hugely important. (Similar to the Claire Baiz, ugly stepsister argument). We want to present an image of a dynamic, pretty, clean, "cool town."

I would bet that if you polled 24-30 year olds, coal plants would not fall under the definition of "cool."

It's about vision. Do our leaders have a vision for our community? Or are we merely going to grasp at every new project that comes along?

You know me personally. I am not anti-growth, and I am far from an environmentalist. But this plan doesn't add up; the cost-benefit analysis fails. Or at least our leadership has failed to convince me, through hide the ball and other fun games, that this thing pencils in the favor of the average resident.

Anonymous said...

Nowhere in the coal plant cost analysis have the city addressed unforeseen O&M or capital improvements. What happens when regs change or failures happen? The city is going to have to pay their 15% of the share. The reported savings leave no room for any mishaps with the generating plant.

There are no cost-benefits.

GeeGuy said...

Uh, 15%? You're thinking about the ownership share. We've actually been contributing 25% of the costs. There's no reason to think that is going to change.

WolfPack said...

Geeguy, I agree coal plants would not be in the positive column for young professional community evaluation (CP are definitely not sexy), however, if you asked them to create their own unaided impromptu list of negative community attributes I doubt coal plants would make the list. The refinery is just as bad environmentally for GF but we are not known as an oil town, no one is referring to people as oil-tards and there is no significant effort to get rid of the refinery. The point I was trying to make was that the coal plant mania is causing many to take their collective eye off the ball for larger concerns effecting GF. You’re a smart and involved fellow so I would hate for your attention to be too narrowly focused on this one issue while other items that are more important to young professionals and GF’s image get little thought.

GeeGuy said...

Ah shut up, ya oil-tard!

Anonymous said...

we're screwed

Anonymous said...

Did I miss the ranting for an updated oil plant?

Is the city planning on getting into the oil business?

Anonymous said...

No, but this was posted on the Trib forum in response to the article about Northwest Airlines downsizing

We don't need to give them any more ideas ROTFLMAO

"The city commission of Great Falls with Lawton waving a stack of complaints 1 inch thick said they will takeover operations of Northwest Airlines MSP-GTF route, effective tomorrow. The city Leaders tried to reach a workable agreement by offering to replace the board of directors at NWA with several individuals hand picked by the commission and police chief. NWA management shot it down.

Under the order, the city will seize six A-319s for the Great Falls to Minneapolis route. Police officers will receive 3 hours of training in the simulators at MSP airport this weekend to make a smooth transition into the Airbus 319s. Chief Corky said he can handle this with current staffing and some overtime. Dona Stebbins said first class flights will be available in Great Falls again this Monday thanks to her hands on approach. Up to 24 new jobs will be created to service the aircraft. The Great Falls Airport board is meeting this afternoon to discuss a plan to house the fleet. Under the recently signed confidentially agreement, board members can not discuss details.

FAA was reviewing the takeover and refused comment until the documents are received. The City is considering their request for information but so far the mayor said it was none of their business.

Citizens pointed out several problems with the emergency order. Despite numerous typos, dona stebbins said everybody knows what we mean. It is what it is came a echo from down the hall.."

a-fire-fly said...

That was funny, anon.

Wolfpack, yes we have a refinery in the middle of town. It has been there for as long as I remember, and it stinks, and is dirty and ugly.
But it doesn't affect the community the way this investment in the coal plant would. We cannot afford to create more negatives just because we already have some. And if the refinery loses money, do you pay them to continue operating?
GeeGuy, I thought Bozeman turned us down too.

Anonymous said...

1. Great Falls population hasn't grown in over 30 years.
2. The city has a lot of older, retirement age folks living in it.
3. The big economic force in town is the base.
4. The city government is run by a bunch of hacks. It was that way 30 years ago and it's that way now.
5. There are a lot of folks in town who are against change of any sort... or indifferent to making a change.

I think Great Falls has about a zero chance of attracting the 30 year old professional crowd to move here. Look at our competition in Montana. They have decent sized 4 year colleges. They have the scenery. They're considered hip. Great Falls has none of that. Building the coal plant is not going to help our image or the environment... probably our pocketbooks either.

Anonymous said...

As long as Great Falls have the mentality of air force base hugging and destructive industries like coal plants, nobody with any potential is going to come. The town will become a blue collar haven full of dank bars, strip mall casinos with plenty of drunks and drug addicts.

Look at any other town that lives off the federal teat. All we are missing are the whore house massage parlors rining the base.

Hutch said...

I know this may sound kinda weird, because you're a guy and I'm a guy, and we've never met or anything, but you're like... the Messiah of Great Falls.

Anonymous said...

RE: Anonymous post 6:53 PM, October 04, 2007

Are you saying the city, like an addict, depends upon federal funding for survival or that a society strictly built upon blue collar labor without innovations or technological development is destined to stagnate and collapse?

Just how many people in Great Falls receive some type wage through city, state or federal funding grants, subsidizes and paychecks? (Please welfare recepients should have their own category.)

RE: Geeguy and the Rebecca Ryan pep talk....

So what is your reccommended plan to turn the city around and bring the young people to Great Falls or does someone have an intelligent plan that you support?

And please, can it have everything to do with eliminating the need for taxpayers to throw more money at the problem?

Anonymous said...

" Building the coal plant is not going to help our image or the environment... probably our pocketbooks either."

Nor will it do any good for the health of the young and old in this town either. As an older fart who was born and raised here in the forties and fifties, I moved to greener pastures in the early sixties as ACM was not my idea of a good bone to chew on for the rest of my life. It was a good decision and when the big stack went down I knew I had made the right choice. Many years later I am know back here in retirement because as far as the air and scenery is concerned this is "the last best place" I hope that all you younger folks will realize that sooner than later. There are good solutions to the problems you all have expressed on this site. it will take a lot good political and community will to see these changes happen for this community. We are far from brain dead here and we can all pull together to see a good future for Great Falls and this wonderful area we call home. Thanks GeeGuy for this great forum to start this process for positive change. "The past need not be the future". JT

Hilary Ransdell Lewin said...

Having been away from town for nearly two weeks, I have just read this comment on the blog. This is EXACTLYwhat I have been saying for at least three years. There are plenty of great reasons not to build this boondoggle, this misbegotten project, but you have put your finger on the main point. It's all about what kind of VISION we have for our city. Really, is a coal plant all we can come up with? Something out of the nineteenth century??? Smokestacks may have been a positive symbol of prosperity and industry a hundred years ago, or even sixty years ago, but that is no longer the case.

My daughter is getting married next summer, and she and her husband want to come back to Great Falls to LIVE. Also, her friends in her class want to come back to Montana, and even to Great Falls, to LIVE. These people are going to be professionals. They have energy and excitement and a desire to build families and community. But they have told me point blank that if the coal plant goes in, they will not be coming to Great Falls.

I did not know about the lecture you mention, and I would like to hear more about it. VERY interesting new dynamic at work.

I believe Great Falls has a lot going for it, and it can have a lot more going for it if we grab the vision NOW and stay ahead of the curve. Both Missoula and Bozeman are gridlocked with traffic. Great Falls is well-designed (due to VISION of Paris Gibson) and if we follow good city and county planning, our city can be more liveable and gracious than either of those cities. (I grew up in Bozeman and I think the Gallatin Valley is one of the most gorgeous places in the state, but the pile of people crowding in there makes it much less desireable as a place to live, in my opinion.)

In this era of sea changes in the way we do things, we need leaders who have a vision for the future that does not look to the past or even to the present "way things have always been done." Fossil fuels are OVER. Let's bring Great Falls into the twenty-first century instead of hanging on to the past.

Anonymous said...

The problem is this coal plant is going to profit a bunch of greedy old farts and hags that will take their ill gotten gains and move away never to see the mess left behind.

Anonymous said...

We need leaders who have a vision for free enterprise. We need leaders who have looked to the past and recognize the evils of communist policy influences.

We need leaders who realize the present "way things have always been done" by socialist means have bleed the proletariat dry.

Let's support leaders with vision to bring Great Falls out of the grip of the maniacal fiends and into the twenty-first century by encouraging a study and implementation of true principles of freedom.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! I see that mr. john birch is alive and kicking in GF! Guess I better start checking under my bed at night for commies! Them tricky buggers are everywhere!


Anonymous said...

LK -

How about you merely check your facts, document your thoughts and use spell check?

Oh, and do check in under your bed because too many of your thoughts and tactics do lean to the commie left. Be sure to clean out your closest and attic too.


Anonymous said...

What's spellchekc?