How about some regenerative and dignifying economic development in Central Pennsylvania?

There’s nothing like some astroturf campaigning to make life interesting. Yesterday, a spokesperson for Focus Central Pennsylvania advanced Nestle’s cause in the Centre Daily Times. They trotted out some fuzzy nice-sounding business speak to show us that Nestle’s on our side. But before you take them seriously, you should see who’s buttering their bread.

May we should call them Focus for Big Polluters. Their major sponsors are a united front for oil, gas, and coal and subsidiary industries in transportation and petro-plastics. If you look at their “Alternative Energy” page it’s pretty obvious. They call natural gas “alternative energy.” That’s like calling Cinderella “alternative rock” in 1991. There was nothing alternative about hair metal and there isn’t anything alternative about natural gas. Where’s the real alternative energy?

If we mean renewables as alternative, then they’ve spent next to no time discerning the state of renewable energy in the state or the region. E2 reported last year that Pennsylvania hosts 70,000 clean energy jobs, 55,000 of them in green building and the energy efficiency market. Don’t get me wrong, Focus say something about it, but it’s lip service at best. They omit the rise of solar and wind from the picture. I guess they didn’t get the memo that solar employment was growing 17 times faster than the rest of the economy in the US . A lack of acquaintance with reality puts a limit on our aspirations and our imaginations.

But they have one thing right: We need a diversified economy that bolsters municipal tax bases and provides good-paying jobs for a sustainable economy. But the Nestle plant will likely fail to do this for Central PA. In case Focus didn’t notice, Nestle has a track record proving that they don’t care about our home or anyone else’s home. As I’ve written previously,

If we make everything about just these jobs, we do so at the expense of other values. For example, Nestle’s CEO has statedthat he doesn’t accept that water is a human or public right. Putting aside the fact that UN Resolution 64/292 recognizes a right to water, what does this tell you about Nestle’s business model? It tells any reasonable observer that the company will use their access to public water to create profits to the detriment of others. If a community wants to turn off Nestle’s spout for their predatory water practices, Nestle will ignore or litigate their way into getting what they want, from whoever they want it, when they want it. That’ll be ratepayers of the Spring Township Water Authority.

Here is another thought. At a time when public investment in infrastructure has greatly declined, who stands to gain? The $4.75/thousand gallons that ratepayers will soon put up for Spring Township water authority might be paying the bills. But across the US, we’ve seen the impacts of declining investment. And you don’t have to look far: Mountaintop near Snow Shoe and Rock Springs Water Company in west Ferguson Township both. Nestle’s already shown that they can use these crises to burnish their image, donating their bottled water while technicians from the State College Borough Water Authority help fix the Mountaintop leaks. If something similar happens to Spring Township Water Authority, who has the biggest straw and the financial resources to grab and privatize the community’s water? You know.

Nestle has not given this or any other community reason to believe that the jobs they will provide will not be accompanied by lawsuits, community upheaval, and predatory water withdrawals. This should bring us to actually focus on a diversified and sustainable economy in central Pennsylvania.

So here’s a little idea: What if we support and invite business that regenerates all of us and dignifies every individual, community, and the fabric of all life? That’s a serious challenge, one I’d love to seriously see every business–Nestle included–take on.

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