The Fargo Forum, Sanford Health President and CEO Dennis Millirons, Microsoft’s site leader Don Morton and BCBS President and CEO Paul Von Ebers receive FMDam.org’s FIRST ever combined “Leaky Bucket – Story Doesn’t Hold Water Award” for Kristin Daum’s April 22nd, 2012 “Businesses Describe Economic Impact of Flooding” article.
When a story clearly doesn’t doesn’t hold water and calls for subjective reasoning which ignores the real implications to taxpayers – the award is raised high and bestowed upon it’s recipient(s).
Attending the North Dakota Legislature’s Water-Related Topics Overview Committee meeting offered an eyewitness account to the lobbying and bending of “truth” being done for Fargo’s version of the “Big Dig”. However, reading the words as they oozed from the pages of the Fargo Forum underscored the Forum’s bias for the Fargo Moorhead Dam and FM Diversion as well as the allegiance to the Diversion Authority’s political agenda.
Taxpayer’s have a finite number of dollars to live on and diversion proponents want to take a bigger slice of your livable wage to fund the economic prosperity of “major” businesses.
Using tax dollars to fund economic development is an immoral venture, the brainchild of fools and an economic time bomb for the property owners and businesses left to shoulder the escalating diversion price tag.
Here is the article, excerpts and commentary,
Major businesses describe economic impact of F-M flooding
by: Kristin Daum, Fargo Forum
April 22nd, 2012
FARGO – The economic vitality of three of this region’s most high-profile and influential businesses could be stunted if Fargo ever lost a flood fight.
But a disaster that hurts the likes of Microsoft, Sanford Health or Blue Cross Blue Shield would also harm the rest of the metro, affecting thousands of local employees and small businesses and likely dampening the area’s vibrant economy.
COMMENTARY: Economic vitality is stunted by many factors…, such as high taxes for economic development projects, high fuel prices, high health care costs, high insurance costs, lack of adequate software research and development, political collusion and backroom deals. Needless to say, natural disaster is not unique to Fargo.
Executives from the three companies testified about that prospect Thursday in front of the North Dakota Legislature’s Water-Related Topics Overview Committee.
COMMENTARY: Viewing the shameful parade of the “elite major businesses” before law makers to make a sympathetic bid for tax dollars and support for the proposed project was tantamount to info-mercials allowed for friends of elected officials and Diversion Authority members.
Sanford, Microsoft and Blue Cross are no more deserving of flood protection than anyone else.
How arrogant and dysfunctional does one need to be to saddle taxpayers with the burden of paying for the economic security and prosperity of others?
Using the “bottom line” as the basis in any flood protection argument suggests that loyalty to Fargo is financially fickle and if the overpriced diversion project cuts too deeply into a businesses bottom-line…, those businesses could turn tail and leave the local taxpayers with the bill.
The board had gathered in Fargo to learn more about the proposed Red River diversion and other flood protection efforts.
The testimony from those business leaders helped showcase how harmful a disaster – or even continuous flood fights – could be for Fargo-Moorhead’s economy.
While none of the three executives advocated for a specific solution, each stressed the need for permanent flood protection for the metro area.
COMMENTARY: No one is questioning the need for “responsible” flood protection in Fargo. However, exception is taken when a carefully crafted “pro-diversion” message has conveniently averted media attention away from the 2 high risk dams as an integral part of the project. Dams that place the entire metro region at risk of an uncontrolled release or error in calculation caused the entire structure to be overwhelmed.
Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker testified to lawmakers at the April 19th, 2012 meeting: “Fargo’s goal to build up inner-city protection to 42.5 feet. That goal could cost $247 million, separate from the $1.8 billion diversion.”
So it begs the question, if 42.5 feet costs $247 million and would protect Fargo to a 100 year event, why burden taxpayers with an additional $1.8 billion plus project that does the same thing but obligates more tax dollars to achieve protection against a flood event that has a 99.98% percent chance of never occurring?
Sanford, one of the valley’s primary health care providers, operates its main hospital in downtown Fargo, less than a half-mile from the Red River.
The medical center is one of two teaching hospitals Sanford runs in the Midwest. The site is also home to a major trauma center and the Roger Maris Cancer Center, facilities that draw tens of thousands of regional patients a year.
“Sanford Health has a huge responsibility for the health and welfare of the people in this region,” Sanford Health President and CEO Dennis Millirons told state lawmakers.
Under the threat of a historic flood, Sanford – then MeritCare hospital – was temporarily evacuated in 2009, which cost $4.5 million.
But that’s far short of the cost Sanford Health would face if a flood overtakes downtown.
“It would destroy infrastructure at the facility and would require replacement of electrical, medical and other critical systems,” Millirons said, adding that Sanford’s operations would be down potentially for months.
Such a crippling disaster would force patients to seek treatment elsewhere, requiring them to travel long distances and diminishing access to quality local care, since other F-M medical facilities couldn’t accommodate all of Sanford’s patients, Millirons said.
For example, flood damage to the hospital’s radiation equipment would close the Roger Maris Cancer Center for at least a year, while the specially made equipment is replaced.
That alone would send cancer patients across the country to receive vital radiation therapy, Millirons said.
“While Sanford Health does not express a preference – we leave that to the experts and elected officials – we simply believe it’s vital to have flood control because some day a devastating flood could happen,” Millirons said.
Microsoft’s Fargo campus employs 1,650 people, but with new growth and investment in the region, the computer giant aims to eventually employ as many as 2,700 people.
Don Morton, Microsoft’s site leader here, told lawmakers that the Microsoft campus can handle itself against flood fights, but the ripple effects of such natural disasters still affect the company’s productivity in Fargo.
As one of Microsoft’s main stateside sites, Fargo’s campus handles a lot of high-priority tasks for the corporation, including biweekly payroll for Microsoft’s 52,000 employees in the Americas.
Microsoft’s Fargo site closed down for 10 days during the 2009 flood, so its employees could join the community in the fight, but Morton said “it’s just not something we need to go through year after year after year.”<
Microsoft’s top executives want to continue investing in Fargo-Moorhead but perpetual flood fights could hinder that, Morton said.
Microsoft’s active presence here has a positive impact on dozens of other local businesses, including car rental companies, hotels and restaurants, Morton said.
“If you just take Microsoft employees that travel to Fargo – mostly from Seattle – each year, they will spend way north of $100,000 just on rental cars,” Morton said. “The direct economic impact in flooding can be seen in those numbers.”
BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD
Aside from being North Dakota’s largest health insurer, Fargo-based Blue Cross Blue Shield also has a major role in paying out Medicare and Medicaid claims nationwide.
Locally, BCBS pays out $1 billion in health care claims each year just in North Dakota, President and CEO Paul Von Ebers told state lawmakers.
In order to accomplish that, the company has to process claims efficiently and on time, otherwise it can negatively affect health care facilities across the state and thousands of patients who need their services paid for, Von Ebers said.
BCBS – which employs 2,000 people – also manages Medicare in 18 states, as well as the Medicaid programs in Iowa and Louisiana.
“Our biggest customer is actually the federal government in Baltimore,” Von Ebers said. “Every time we have a flood event in Fargo, they’re on the phone calling us to make sure we’re going to be OK” and that the claims can still be taken care of.
BSBS currently has three bids out take on more administrative work for Medicare nationwide.
“Each bid is worth about $100 billion in revenue flowing into the state and could create literally hundreds of jobs in the state,” Von Ebers said. “It’s extremely important to us, able to say, ‘Yes, we have flood-protected facilities.’ “
COMMENTARY: If these three “major” businesses feel they are genuinely threatened by flood waters in Fargo, then they should be taking immediate measures to flood proof their properties.
Each played to the heartstrings of lawmakers in search of sympathy like a bully requesting your lunch money.
Are the regions most high-profile and influential businesses stunting Fargo’s success?
Is it possible that Fargo’s most high-profile and influential businesses are the exact reason why the United States Census Bureau only places Fargo at the mid-point of earning potential per household? Long rivaled Bismarck, ND ranks 39 places higher – which reflects directly upon the decisions of businesses and local officials.
Fargo ranks; (at date of publication)
144 out of 280 “by median household income” and;
130 out of 280 “by per capita income”;
Mayor Dennis Walaker stood at the podium and testified to lawmakers that the project is about “economic development”.
Wait a minute…! What happened to the story that the project is about “flood protection”?
ND and National lawmakers have to take a long hard look at the justifications being asserted to have taxpayers fund the economic growth of private and publicly traded businesses at the expense of the very taxpayers they are under-employing.
North Dakota values has to stand for something more than “cheap labor that works hard”.