Editorial: If they do this, then we do that
By Richard Gaw
On July 30, members of the Joint Economic Development initiative between Kennett Square Borough, Kennett Township and Historic Kennett Square gathered at a roundtable for a two-hour meeting. The meeting canvassed a wide spectrum of ideas and projects, under the guidelines of its Economic Development Study, a document that has hammered down an economic vision for the future of two municipalities who are linked together not just by a border but by a commonality of bold ideas.
The stakeholders of these three entities were there in a full-throttled idea mode and accelerated by a common belief that the best decisions are those made for the common good of everyone, not just a few, and its evidence was never more apparent than during Economic Development Director Nate Echeverria's presentation. It was a bullet-point display of forward movement that included schedules, phases, discussions and recommendations, a primer for action that enlists everyone as a stakeholder: elected officials, appointed officials and local residents.
On August 1, about halfway through the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors' meeting, an audience member referred to an article that he had recently read in the Philadelphia Business Journal, entitled “Exelon Generation Considers Moving Its Headquarters from Kennett Square.”
The article stated that the company is considering the possibility of leaving Kennett Square, where it currently leases two buildings and employs 700 people at 200 and 300 Exelon Way.
In a story that appeared in the July 25 edition of the Chester County Press, an official statement from the subsidiary, provided by David Tillman, director of nuclear communications, read:
“As part of our cost saving efforts, Exelon Generation’s real estate and facilities team is currently exploring location options for our Kennett Square headquarters. While our lease doesn’t expire until late 2020, we are being proactive and expect to have a decision by the end of this year.”
The audience member asked the supervisors and township manager Lisa Moore how they would compensate for lost money it receives in earned income tax from those 700 employees, should the company decide to move when its lease expires in 2020.
The audience member received no definitive answers, but a lot of concern.
During the township's 2018 budget presentation, unveiled and adopted at the Dec. 6 Board of Supervisors meeting, the board voted 3-0 to approve a 1.9 mills property tax increase for township residents to the tune of approximately $930 per household annually, that will be dedicated to a new emergency services fund that is expected to cost $1.5 million a year. At a series of township board meetings held this spring, a small but passionate cross-section of residents expressed their anger over the increase, and this newspaper published several editorials that articulated this anger.
Should Exelon Generation leave Kennett Square, the easy solution for lost EIT money would be to raise taxes in the township, but doing so would create the next wave of a public relations disaster for the township's lawmakers, who already serve a constituency made up of many who firmly believe that taxes and spending in the township are already way out of control.
We believe that the best solution to compensating for this possible dilemma is not to do it by reactionary means, that is, after the last moving trucks should leave the Exelon Generation lot in 2020. Rather, a proposed migration of this kind must be inclusive of everyone who has a stake in the economic future of the entire Kennett community, and not just the decision makers at the township.
That means working this issue into the agenda at the Oct. 29 Joint Economic Development's community workshop, and asking the hard questions: How do we as a community appeal to Exelon Generation to remain as a viable economic presence in southern Chester County?
If the company leaves, how to we incorporate the tenets of our Economic Development Study into the recruitment of new businesses and industries, and how can partnering agencies like the Route 1 Economic Development Initiative help us?
In the event of the company's departure, how can we leverage our current research in the future of indoor agriculture, as a way to position Exelon Way as a national – and potentially world-wide – hub for controlled environment agriculture?
The July 30 meeting of the Joint Economic Development group, as well as the contents of its comprehensive economic plans, are proof positive that the Kennett community works best when it eschews borders and the minutiae of self interests. Now is the time for that working philosophy to put itself to the test again, and to succeed in finding the best possible solutions.