Comments at County Board Meeting on June 20, 2017.
I am concerned about the deal to award Bloomberg BNA $2.8 million to maintain its headquarters in Crystal City. The staff report indicates that $500 thousand from a Commonwealth Opportunity Fund (COF) grant will be deposited with the Arlington Economic Development Authority (EDA), which will then dole it out to BNA. The County will chip in $800 thousand in grant money plus $2 million in tax relief over five years.
The County Manager thinks this deal is worthwhile, because the County will get $23 million in tax benefits from BNA over the next ten years. In exchange BNA pledges to hire 250 additional staff and rent 78,000 additional square feet in the County.
As with the Nestle North America relocation deal earlier this year, I am concerned about the fairness of donating taxpayer funds to major corporations. Capitalized at $235 billion, Nestle is the largest food corporation in the world.
It is also one of the most ruthless. Most recently RESPA, one of Nestle’s palm oil suppliers was convicted of ecocide for contaminating the Pasion River in Guatemala with pesticides. Yet Arlington, a supposed champion of the environment, subsidized Nestle’s move here to the tune of $6 million, and the state chipped in $10 million more.
Bloomberg BNA is a professional trade news affiliate of Bloomberg, LP, a privately held Wall Street conglomerate whose value was estimated by former Bloomberg reporter Edmund Lee at $54 billion in January, 2016. At the time Lee rated Bloomberg LP CEO Michael Bloomberg as the fifth richest man in the world.
Bloomberg BNA was itself valued at $990 million in 2011 when Bloomberg purchased it. Ironically the Bloomberg BNA affiliate website lists philanthropy in the form of employee volunteerism as one of its offerings.
If Bloomberg BNA is so philanthropic, how come it is shaking down Arlington and Virginia taxpayers for benefits it obviously doesn’t need? This is not an idle question, as the benefit packages the Economic Development Authority bestows on the wealthy corporations is money that is not available to the remaining businesses in this County.