To the editor:
As night follows day, the American Eagle Myth can be counted on to land in the middle of local reporting on economic development. The angry villagers chasing a frightened, helpless corporation out of town with pitchforks and torches is a useful image in our local politics, I guess. But it didn't happen.
A brief summary of the actual history of the American Eagle warehouse question goes like this: In the year 2000, following an important, generally civil, debate over land use and tax abatement policies, the City Commission granted the company everything it had asked for. Then the company's economic outlook took a turn for the worse, and they chose a smaller, existing, $26 million project in Ottawa rather than the approved $45 million one here. Locally, the AE debate ultimately led to a better tax abatement policy (thanks to Mayor Jim Henry).
You could look it up. A quick search of contemporaneous Journal-World reports yields this example, dated Nov. 23, 2000, quoting an American Eagle representative: "Nobody killed the deal. : It was strictly a business, economic decision." How clear is that?
Although the Journal-World reported the events as they occurred, the Myth has managed to lodge itself in the local consciousness anyway. It is especially curious that some advocates for local economic development are quick to revive and promote the Myth, since it seems so clearly counterproductive to our efforts to attract new businesses to our city.