Sunday, July 18, 2010

CIC: Rose Colored Glasses

Keep one thing in mind.
The $107,000,000 that the state, city and parish dropped on Cyber Innovation Center was touted as an ‘investment’ that would give a huge return in tax revenues spurred by thousands of new jobs and all sorts of new growth.  That was the purpose of the goverment putting up the money.
We’re definitely on the fast track here,” said David Rockett, executive director of the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation.
"What that means is 10,000 potential new employees with families that will need to find housing, enroll children in the school system, drive on city streets and shop in local stores.
"In my opinion, it's a done deal," Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker, a retired Air Force colonel, said of Cyber Command coming to Barksdale.
CIC Director Craig Spohn was quoted as saying "Cyberspace is where the next big threat to industry, individuals and national security is."
"Artillery and nuclear missiles will not be the weapons of the future.”
In December of 2007 I wrote on this blog “Regardless of what the national economy does, if Bossier gets the Cyber Command (announcement due in February), we will see phenomenal growth for quite a while. My understanding is that California, New Mexico, Nebraska and a couple of other states are vying for the command. The local and state government have put up huge amounts of money for development.
At this point, we can only wait and see.”
I was optimistic, but also I was leery of the huge amounts of taxpayer money that were being put up.
After it was announced that there would be no separate Cyber Command, and that what was left of it was to be in San Antonio, Mr. Spohn changed his tune.
"We were never intending to be a one trick-pony with respect to the Air Force. The Air Force provided us a good catalyst and still does because of the things at Barksdale Air Force Base and it's not scheduled to go away."
Well, no – that’s not what he said.
The Times this week interviewed Mr. Spohn and this was one of their exchanges:
Times: Has CIC's actual or understood mission statement been changed since the the Department of Defense and the Air Force altered its decision regarding the establishment of a "Cyber Command"?
Spohn: The mission has and continues to be the development of good-paying technology jobs leveraging federal programs such as Global Strike Command.
Again, no, that’s not what he said at the inception. Global Strike Command has to do with the centralization of control of nuclear weapons.
What he said was "Artillery and nuclear missiles will not be the weapons of the future.”
Now I have nothing against Mr. Spohn, I understand that his job is to try to salvage this thing and make something of it. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that he has really been forthcoming.
For instance, when CIC announced a couple of weeks ago that LUBA, a workers’ compensation insurance company, would be locating at the center, the press release failed to state that they would be occupying a communications closet, not an office. This came out in The Times interview.
Times: What will LUBA locate here?
Spohn: The LUBA agreement is for a communications closet, not an office. There is no staff working here. This is a disaster recovery site.
Now that's okay as far as it goes, but it doesn't create one single job.  Since the whole success or failure of the CIC is based on the number of jobs created, perhaps it is time for some straight answers.
We know that the 8th Air Force has leased, temporarily, 2 floors of the building for office space. That’s a boon for CIC, but doesn’t create one single new job. The jobs were here already, you can chalk them down to Barksdale Air Force Base, long Bossier’s largest employer.
How about Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and Precision Aerial Reconnaissance (PAR) Inc, who both signed multi-year leases in mid-June. Give us a hint, just estimate – how many new jobs will each company create?
How many of the 10,000 jobs will be filled by these companies, and by the others who have already signed leases?
Just a guess please – 1,000 jobs? 2,000 jobs? 200 jobs? 50 jobs?
I started out optimistic about the possibilities, but I have become very cynical. The main reason for this is that the CIC director and the local politicians have been very disingenuous in the way they have attempted to paint a rosy picture where there isn’t one.
If just one public official would stand up and say, “We really screwed up – this thing will never pay for itself, it will never create 10,000 jobs, nor 5,000 jobs. We’re stuck.”
Like that’s going to happen.
Instead, they are collectively somewhat like Pee-Wee in the clip below.


  1. Anything that has the word "cyber" in its name (after 1999), indicates that the people behind it are clueless.

    Can we say: "oops"?

  2. There's a fascination with computers and a silly notion that computers will win war. We've been at war for eight years against fighters who live in the stone age with crude weapons salvaged from the cold war, and we still haven't beaten them. Our computers have helped, but we haven't won.

  3. Jim, you know that Pee Wee Herman's face has been photographed on the surface of Mars, don't you?

    Really. I saw it about 20 years ago on the cover of some tabloid magazine at Brookshires. Looked just like him.


    I think we all were let down a good bit when the CyberCommand deal fell the way it did. I know I was. And, I know more than just a few USAF guys that were kinda' shocked. It was "in the bag."

    I guess the bag wasn't so trusty. I honestly do not know whether the CIC investment was worth it all. I'm figuring at this point that it was not. I mean, it's a really pretty building out there, and I truly do hope that some venture can be attracted to occupy it.

    But, you're right. The guy that runs the thing has a tough job. I mean, he's kinda like the PR guy for the Detroit Lions, or the head corch at Notre Dame. A bazillion dollars invested, poor results, and in charge of urging folks to keep the faith.

    I'm on his side. I certainly would love to see a good outcome for the CIC. I'm sure we all are. But, a little more stark "Hey y'all, this hasn't worked out like we planned, so any good idears would be appreciated" might go a long way toward bucking up support for it.

    I reckon we'll see.

  4. But wait a minute this is economic development. You had the Bossier Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation and all your elected officials line up to spend tax payer dollars and they sayed how great this thing was.

    I mean isnt that what they do and know so well, is good business?

    I say they lined up to put everything on double OO on the roulet table.

    Unfortunatly for us this is the lesson for elected officials and the public of why government should only focus on the primary requirments of our city and parish. People expect a few basic things out of government, good roads, good sanitation, good schools, and public safety.

    If you have those covered and you have extra money then you can build yourself a statue!

    We will most certainly have more pro economic development candidates running for office we need to remember this lesson for that time!

  5. NO offense, but they have plans to build more buildings. Can anyone tell me by posting on this blog who got the contracts to build that thing? I mean 107 million is a big project. I would like for Jim to do a story on what companies got that money. This might pan out to be a state STIMULUS program--- just like obamas. Lots of money spent but no return in site.

    The city also lost out on all the HS bonus money. Increased sewere tax, fired a bunch of police and fire, and would not give a curb cut to a 500 million dollar investor.

    Bass Ackwards.


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