Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Rankings Rankle Site Selection Magazine Critics
It's one of those feel good items that appears in the newspaper, a bit of positive news for the community. Like your city was voted Daffodil Capital of Some Arbitrarily-Defined Section of the United States or your town has The Most Smiles Per Square Inch Than Any Other Town With Elm Trees.
Now I could say something about Plattsburgh being The Most Dogshitty Community East Of The Mississippi but that's a topic for another day. I'm here to talk about micropolitan ratings.
The term micropolitan, as defined by Site Selection magazine, refers to a municipality with a population of between 10,000 to 50,000 people that covers at least one county. And Site Selection is known to ranking micropolitans for being the best for economic development.
Recently Plattsburgh (which includes both city and town) ranked #25 on the 2010 micropolitan list compared to other such areas in the country. It has racked up some impressive ratings over the years on this list. According to the Press-Republican, Plattsburgh ratings have been: 2002 #3, 2003 #2, 2004 #4, 2005 #7, 2006 #12, 2007 #19, and 2008 #14. I couldn't locate a rating for 2009 but this list is still impressive.
But recently in the Press-Republican Speakout forum, a feature that allows people to anonymously comment on news topics via email, someone was unimpressed with Site Selection magazine and its rankings. Here's the comment dated 3/27/11 entitled "Magazine:"
Site Selection Magazine rates Plattsburgh #25. Whoever heard of Site Selection? With a worldwide circulation of 44,000, it just sits around the offices of those who advertise in it, and they use the rating system to generate more advertising revenue. Wake up, North Country, we are led by a bunch of snake-oil salesmen telling what we want to want/need to hear to keep our hopes alive. Meanwhile, our children leave town as fast as they can because this community offers them nothing.
Wow. Now there was a sour note in contrast to the praises being sung by Mayor Donald Kasprzak and Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Bernie Bassett for Site Selection magazine.
(No, I didn't write that Speakout. If I want to say something, I say it with my name in this blog.)
So the commenter raised some interesting points.
What is Site Selection magazine? Well, outside of a brief description in various Press-Republican articles, I didn't know. Time for some digging via Google.
At its website -- http://www.siteselection.com/ -- Site Selection describes its editorial mission as publishing "information for expansion planning decision-makers — CEOs, corporate real estate executives and facility planners, human resource managers and consultants to corporations. Our goal is to help the expansion planner do a better job."
Of course, in the world of big business, a company's structure can be like a set of Russian nesting dolls, one inside another. On the SS site I learned that besides being published by an entity called Conway Data Inc., the magazine is also "the official publication of the Industrial Asset Management Council."
And what is the IAMC? At its site -- http://www.iamc.org/ -- the organization is described as "a member-focused association providing strategic insights, highest quality educational resources and exclusive networking opportunities for the leaders of the manufacturing and industrial asset management industry."
On IAMC's Officers and Board of Directors are individuals representing corporations like Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, DuPont Company, 3M Real Estate, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals Group, Kellogg Company and GlaxoSmithKline.
Exclusive networking opportunities, indeed.
The Speakout comment stated that Site Selection magazine uses its ratings to generate more ad revenue. I'm one of those readers who finds a problem when it comes to a certain type of article-ad placement in a publication. For example, there was a small local newspaper that used to have a half-page article featuring a business, talking it up. The bottom half of the same page was a display ad for the same business.
I've see this with national publications like a photography magazine that would have a write-up about a new camera and then in the same issue there's a full page ad by the company that made the camera.
The latest edition of Site Select is available online as a PDF file -- http://www.siteselection.com/digitalEdition/. Flipping through it one notices a pattern: an article talking up Texas is followed by display ads related to Texas businesses and organizations. An article about big projects in Wyoming is followed by a full page ad promoting wind-farming in Wyoming.
Not to say that Site Selection is not on the up-and-up but it doesn't look that impartial with such an article-ad arrangement. The older issues of SS aren't available in PDF, just the articles, but I did find a special advertising section -- http://www.siteselection.com/issues/2003/may/p393/ -- dated May 2003 entitled "Empires Big and Small" that discussed opportunities in New York State. One item of this feature was headlined "PARC Your Business in Plattsburgh," which tooted the horn for the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corporation. Now since this page was called a special ad section, I would assume the articles were advertorials, paid for by New York State or other governmental entities. Your tax dollars at work.
My Google search did reveal some interesting criticism of Site Selection. I came across an article dated May 1, 2008 -- "N.C. Business Climate Unworthy of Praise" -- talking about North Carolina being ranked for having one of the best business climates. In the piece -- http://www.nccivitas.org/2008/n-c-business-climate-unworthy-praise/ -- the writer Brian Balfour stated:
"Site Selection Magazine is a publication targeted to economic developers' and location consultant types. In other words it is a cheerleader for corporate welfare.
"State lawmakers should be embarrassed about being ranked number one on this list because it merely reflects the extent that North Carolina needs to bribe businesses to locate here."
Balfour challenges Site Selection's methodology for rating “best business climate," saying that it really measures "which states are engaged in the highest amount of corporate welfare activity."
This does give an interesting perspective on Plattsburgh's high rating. The area is know for being economically depressed, meaning that many people are unemployed or underemployed. So Plattsburgh rates so high because it rates so low for decent employment and wages.
Like the Speakout critic says, many younger people are leaving the area because there's bupkis for professional employment -- unless you consider slinging burgers or working in a grimy factory "professional."
And getting back to that site criticizing North Carolina for making the Site Selection rank so positive when in fact it indicated how bad things were, the state willing to engage in "corporate welfare." Now when I hear that phrase I usually associated it with a liberal critic of American capitalism. But the web site is run by the John W. Pope Civitas Institute -- North Carolina's Conservative Voice.