The Washington Post reported on July 13 that Arlington County gave $4.5 million (and the State of VA gave $9.5 million) to lure CEB Inc. to move from NW DC to Rosslyn into a new yet to be built high rise office building.
This article is mainly focused on Arlington and the State of Virginia’s efforts to get the Advisory Board to rent the empty Rosslyn office building with over 500,000 square feet in a 390 foot high building. If Arlington county gave CEB (a company associated with Advisory Board) $4.5 million to go to a smaller building, then you can bet Advisory will get double or triple that to move into the white an existing massive office building that has been vacant since being built for the past two years.
Taxpayers should NOT be giving subsidies to get big businesses to move across jurisdictions in Arlington or anywhere in the U.S. (or the world for that matter). The developers who built 390-foot empty office building with no commercial tenants in mind and have left it empty for two years are to blame. That’s capitalism for you: there are winners and losers, but the government shouldn’t finance the losers. Otherwise we are into crony capitalism or lemon socialism. Risk should be borne by investors who make mistakes and not local Arlington taxpayers who urgently need to pay for more schools, parks, and safety net aid for things like homeless assistance and housing assistance.
What does Arlington County really get for its $4.5 million and Virginia’s $9.5 million? Many of CEB employees will never live here in Arlington or even Virginia; the amount of sales taxes obtained from stuff these employees might buy in Rosslyn at lunchtime is trivial. The main revenue Arlington gets is property tax, and if the county gives away $14 million of that initially, how long will it take to get it back?
County Board members apparently have accepted the idea that Arlington County has to start giving out subsidies to big business to locate here in empty space. The economic development spending is now about $12 million, up a $1 million from last year. The $4.5 million given away to CEB is about equal to the increase in county spending this past year for all programs except public schools. Our county’s legitimate needs are overwhelming our tax revenues and we cannot afford any white elephants such as tax give aways, the now cancelled Pike trolley, the now closed Artisphere, and the yet-to-be build $60 million aquatic park in Crystal City.
The best economic advice for these billion dollar developer corporations and realty trusts: lower the rent asked for your vacant office space or convert it into residential use. Government dollars should be used to fund our community needs and not go into the treasuries of major corporations.