It is interesting to see how history repeats itself. Once again, those in charge of Columbia’s economic development are casting their eyes toward ways to bring more industrial development to the city.
That’s old news. “In 1873 the city government believed that Columbia ‘should give every possible encouragement toward fostering a spirit of manufacturing industris, offered tax advantages to new industry,” according to “Columbia: From Southern Village to Midwestern City,” by Alan R. Havig.
In 1906-1907, Columbia raised funds “to build a plant, provide a railroad siding and supply low-cost utilities and workers,” according to Havig’s book. The plant was the Hamilton-Brown Shoe Factory, which still exists, although today it is an office building.
Hamilton-Brown operated the shoe factory until 1939 and in between, the city authorities decided the company had met its side of the agreement, despite it employment of just a little more than half the 600 workers it had promised, and deeded the building to Hamilton-Brown.
However, the number of workers at Hamilton-Brown was significant, with 340 people on its payroll, compared to the 350 peopel employed at University of Missouri at the same time.
In May 2010, IBM announced it would open a technology service delivery center in Columbia, saying it would employ roughly 800 workers. According to a May 17, 2010 article in the Columbia Tribune, the incentive package to IBM includes buying the building where the company will do business and then leasing it to them for $1 a year for 15 years.
In contrast, today the University of Missouri employs more than 8,000 people, which does not include the University Hospital and Clinics employees.
So is luring employers to Columbia a good idea? I don’t know, but I know it’s not a new idea.