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H-H-H-Honda and the jets

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We’re a weekly paper that’s often accused of having a decidedly liberal bent – which is okay by us, though we don’t necessarily agree with the designation. We do accept it as a fact of the media business that people, particularly consumers who disagree with something that’s been published or broadcast, are anxious to place red and blue labels on their sources of information.

But truth be told, our political philosophy is based more on common sense than color, and while we see value in, say, giving same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples or giving a helping hand to those in need, we are also notoriously tight with a dollar (just ask our freelancers).

A product of our miserliness is our disdain for corporate incentives, which we consider to be at best a form of corporate welfare and at worst a form of legalized kickback.

We were against the RF Micro Devices handout totalling $6.5 million from state and local incentives over 11 years for 300 jobs. We were against the $300,000 requested for the Wal-Mart off Highway 29. We said “no” to the flurry of incentive requests last year after a 10-week moratorium in the summer. We looked at the $650,000 that Guilford County gave to Ralph Lauren Media to make Polo shirts in High Point as a bait and switch. And the deal with Dell – $242.5 million all told – made us feel dirty.

But this latest two-step in the corporate incentives hustle – a multi-tiered payout to Honda’s aircraft division in return for agreeing to develop their manufacturing and design facility near their existing corporate headquarters at Piedmont Triad International airport – intrigues us on several fronts.

Compared to other packages, this one actually makes a bit of sense in that the facility will employ about 300 people with salaries and contracts that average near $75,000 a year, and estimates at Honda’s contributions are greater than $100 million. The incentives package should total about $1.4 million, before the state ponies up its share.

But still, hasn’t Honda already committed to PTI? They developed the prototype here and the CEO of Honda Jets, Michimasa Fujino, lives in the area. And according to the News & Record, a spokesman for the company said that they did not ask for any incentives.

Perhaps more disturbing than an unsolicited handout is the product itself: a six-seat private jet with a “relatively affordable” price tag of about $3.5 million, intended for personal, corporate and light commercial use and for which, apparently, there is a huge market. And while local demand for the manufacturing facility may run high, we suspect that Honda will not be selling very many jets in the Piedmont Triad.

Unless, of course, we begin offering them as corporate incentives.

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