“Dreaming in Dayton” in National Geographic Magazine

Dayton got mentioned in National Geographic magazine- more specifically, UA Vision- a company part owned by Mark Herres (the guy the city kneecapped on the UPS/Emery deal).

If the FAA relaxes its rules, says Mark Brown, the civilian market for drones—and especially small, low-cost, tactical drones—could soon dwarf military sales, which in 2011 totaled more than three billion dollars. Brown, a former astronaut who is now an aerospace consultant in Dayton, Ohio, helps bring drone manufacturers and potential customers together. The success of military UAVs, he contends, has created “an appetite for more, more, more!” Brown’s PowerPoint presentation is called “On the Threshold of a Dream.”

Dreaming in Dayton

Drone fever is especially palpable in Dayton, cradle of American aviation, home of the Wright brothers and of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Even before the recent recession, Dayton was struggling. Over the past decade several large companies, including General Motors, have shut down operations here. But Dayton’s airport is lined with advertisements for aerospace companies; an ad for the Predator Mission Aircrew Training System shows two men in flight suits staring stoically at a battery of computer monitors. The city is dotted with drone entrepreneurs. “This is one of the few new industries with a chance to grow rapidly,” Brown says.

One of those entrepreneurs is Donald Smith, a bearish former Navy aircraft technician with ginger hair and a goatee. His firm, UA Vision, manufactures a delta-wing drone called the Spear. Made of polystyrene foam wrapped in woven carbon fiber or other fabrics, the Spear comes in several sizes; the smallest has a four-foot wingspan and weighs less than four pounds. It resembles a toy B-1 bomber. Smith sees it being used to keep track of pets, livestock, wildlife, even Alzheimer’s patients—anything or anyone equipped with radio-frequency identification tags that can be read remotely.

In the street outside the UA Vision factory a co-worker tosses the drone into the air, and Smith takes control of it with a handheld device. The drone swoops up and almost out of sight, plummets, corkscrews, loops the loop, skims a deserted lot across the street, arcs back up, and then slows down until it seems to hover, motionless, above us. Smith grins at me. “This plane is fully aerobatic,” he says.

A few miles away at Wright-Patterson stands the Air Force Institute of Technology, a center of military drone research. A bronze statue of a bedraggled winged man, Icarus, adorns the entrance—a symbol both of aviation daring and of catastrophic navigation error. In one of the labs John Raquet, a balding, bespectacled civilian, is designing new navigation systems for drones.

via Unmanned Flight: The Drones Come Home – Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine.

Like it or not, there will be drones watching us in our future. I’m not sure I like them as part of a surveillance society, but the use that Mark and Donald are doing with disaster relief is admirable and useful.

WPAFB is too big to fail. But, our politicians fail us already

We’ve already seen what happens when institutions that are “too big to fail” do exactly that- fail. Yet, the much vaulted economic tripod of Dayton- Feds, Meds and Eds (none of which pay taxes directly) keeps depending on the war machine centered at WPAFB to continue to support our failed economic policies in Ohio.

The Dayton Daily News reports on the gaining of “363 net jobs” like a giddy school girl talking about a teen heartthrob:

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — An Air Force restructuring designed to cut costs by eliminating thousands of civilian jobs will actually result in a net gain of 363 positions at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as it becomes a bigger center of acquisition, research and development, officials said Wednesday.That underscores the importance of Wright-Patterson as the Air Force strives to trim spending and operate more efficiently in response to Congress’ demands to reduce the federal budget deficit, members of Congress and retired Air Force officials said.

via Over 300 jobs coming to WPAFB after restructuring.

Of course, the fact that the country can ill afford to continue supporting our 10-year war in Afghanistan (which has no air power at all) would make most wonder how we can afford to keep WPAFB staffed and running at similar levels in the future.

Of course, if you look at another article, you find this:

The United States has taken a significant first step toward offering F-35 fighter jet aircraft to India in a sign of its desire to deepen defense cooperation.

via US offers info on top fighter jet to India.

While I have no gripe against India, the only reason we need to sell F35s to them is to help keep our defense contractors fat and happy so they can contribute to the political campaigns of people like Congressman Mike Turner (who still believes nuclear weapons are useful) and who sit on the armed services committee and help oversee deals like this.

For those of you unfamiliar with the base- we have a huge number of people involved in selling weapons systems to foreign nations. Even to countries whom we later go to war with. It’s one of the ways we can keep our costs down and keep escalating the need for new weapons systems. We have to have superior technology to fight the people we arm today tomorrow.

The whole thing makes zero sense, but then you get idiots like the drunk driving State Rep Jarrod Martin from Beavercreek saying the following:

State Rep. Jarrod Martin, R-Beavercreek, told Gongwer News Service, that he would not support the new map unless Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is represented by at least two U.S. House members.

The proposed new map reportedly puts all of Montgomery and Greene counties in the same district, which would mean the base would be represented by one member.

via House to vote today on new redistricting plan.

This line of reasoning is total crap in the first place. When elected, congressmen/women should have a set of priorities that take precedence over petty local BS: Is it good for the planet, good for our country, good for our state and then lastly my district. All 16 of the Representatives from Ohio (down 2 from last census) should be supporting WPAFB as it is the largest employer and economic engine in the state. It shouldn’t matter how many districts touch it, if they do their job right.

Secondly, building an economy based on weapons to destroy things isn’t a great investment strategy long term- unless you are just coddling the people who fund your campaign kitties. We can find much more effective economic engines than WPAFB to hang our hat on.

Last but not least, because of hiring cycles and low job turnover, the base is about to suffer a huge brain drain as post Vietnam hires all retire or take buyouts losing us huge institutional knowledge. What was a mighty fine running machine- is about to head off into retirement in a big way. WPAFB’s value, based on its social capital is going to be taking a huge hit in the near future and it’s something no one is willing to admit.

It’s time to take another listen to Dwight David Eisenhower’s farewell address when he warned of the costs of having a large “military industrial complex” which is now too big to fail.

Kasich promotes sprawl zone near WPAFB

First the new governor decides to privatize the Ohio Department of Development. Then he also makes sure that universal tax cuts stay in force so that Ohio can be a more “business friendly dtate”- then he turns around and hands his biggest donors some extra help in the form of an “Enterprise zone”- special tax breaks for those on the “Friends and Family” government plan:

Gov. John Kasich, in his State of the State speech Tuesday, repeated a proposal to encourage business development near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base by creating an enterprise zone to grant tax incentives to companies that would locate there….

The governor gave no time frame Tuesday for establishing the enterprise zone, said his press secretary, Rob Nichols….

The Ohio Department of Development describes enterprise zones as designated land areas in which businesses may receive tax exemptions on new investments that meet pre-defined criteria, to encourage investment in the targeted areas. Defense contracting companies already fill much of the commercially zoned land within several miles of Wright-Patterson.

The enterprise zones can allow a community to attract the type of business it wants to attract, and the incentives can make the land more attractive for business investment, according to the summary on the Department of Development’s website.

But the department also gives this caution: “Because of the far-reaching effects of tax incentives, the enterprise zone should be used as a tool of the last resort. A community should attempt to satisfy the business’s needs through other assistance programs prior to considering tax incentives. In all cases, enterprise zone agreements should be negotiated cautiously.”

via Kasich promotes business enterprise zone near WPAFB.

With the Dayton metro area already well overbuilt- our governor is about to encourage large companies to break leases and relocate into a reduced or no-tax zone, creating more vacancies and eroding the tax base of other parts of the community.

We’ve already seen what has happened to Downtown Dayton- with a 30+% vacancy rate, and as MVRPC has consistently pointed out we are already overbuilt.

Any time that tax rates are used to incent one business or location over another- it is harming a competitor or another community. It is time for a federal ban on all State and Local uses of tax breaks to compete for jobs.

Our tax code is already a tangled hot mess. By allowing more of these exemptions and preferences, we’re only making our country less free and competitive, not more. This is corporate welfare, nothing more, nothing less.

Dayton Development Coalition is out of touch

First order of business at every municipality in the region today: demand an audit and a refund from the Dayton Development Coalition.

While every single community has been asking employees for concessions, laying off staff, not filling positions and cutting budgets- the Dayton Development Coalition continues to behave like Wall Street bankers- drinking champagne and eating caviar while being handed our tax dollars. They are going to give themselves raises of 5% to 24% on their already overly inflated salaries.

We may not be able to do squat about Wall Street- but, we can take a close look at these overpaid lobbyists who get to set their own compensation rates. Considering the size of their organization-  and the level of responsibility, none of our public administrators want to cut the umbilical cord because they are all eying one of those positions as their next step- like Vandalia City Manager Jeff Hoagland who is about to shed responsibility and get a huge pay raise by joining the Coalition.

The Mayor of Kettering was taken care of by the coalition for years- through a job for his wife. She was paid well while the DDC handed out huge amounts of cash to Congressman Turner’s wife and her firm “The Turner Effect” on a no-bid contract for the universally panned “Get Midwest” branding campaign. She was replaced by a former TV civic affairs reporter who needed a job- and had one of “The league of extraordinary gentle women” lobbying for her.

Please note- Jim Leftwich has a base salary of $257,000 which is $107K more than Dayton City Manager Tim Riordan, and about $60K more than Montgomery County Administrator Deborah “Not me” Feldman, both of whom oversee several thousand employees and budgets in excess of $500 million. With a 24% bonus- $59,280 more, he’s bringing in $318,680.

From the DDN:

The Dayton Development Coalition plans to hand out thousands of dollars in year-end bonuses to all its employees…

Jim Leftwich, president of the nonprofit, said the bonuses range from 5 percent for lower-level staff to 24 percent for senior staff. With a base salary of $257,000, Leftwich is the coalition’s highest-paid staffer and tops all other economic development CEOs in the region.

The coalition would not release individual bonus amounts. But based on the percentages it did release — and compensation figures outlined in past years’ tax documents — the amount of money is substantial. Leftwich’s predecessor, John P. Nauseef, had a base salary of $152,000 with $111,000 in additional bonus and incentive compensation, according to the group’s 2008 IRS tax form. Three other executives that year, including Leftwich, received a combined $146,000 in incentives and bonuses.

“There are a number of different ways people are compensated and one of those ways is through a bonus,” Leftwich said. “All of our performance bonuses are paid from non-public sector money.”

Although the coalition is not a government agency, it does receive public money. Local governments contribute about $500,000 annually to the coalition’s $3.5 million operating budget, with the largest public contribution coming from Montgomery County ($250,000). The coalition also received $15 million from the state government in Third Frontier money that it says has generated nearly $53 million in economic growth since November 2007.

Leftwich said his employees also received bonuses last year.

via Dayton economic group hands out big bonuses.

And because the Dayton Daily News is run by morons- and they refuse to write long stories- instead breaking them up into idiot-sized articles- we have to go to a different article to see what the DDC claims are its bonus-earning achievements:

In its 2009 annual report, the nonprofit coalition said it generated a $133 return for every dollar invested through the last five years, helping the area gain or retain nearly 14,000 jobs in that period. A majority of those were related to Wright-Patterson.

Please note, the proving of “retaining jobs” is like taking credit for the sun coming up tomorrow. In terms of lobbying for Wright Patterson AFB – isn’t that what we pay another suit–our congressman to do? Mike Turner is our savior on WPAFB, we’ve been told over and over- and yet, he only makes $178K a year as a member of Congress. Please note, the governor of Ohio makes less than even the Montgomery County Administrator- with a paycheck around $150K a year.

The coalition bills itself as an economic development and advocacy organization for the whole region, but has long seen its core mission as supporting Wright-Patt.

The base, thanks to the Base Realignment and Closure relocation process, is growing jobs. Wright-Patterson currently employs about 27,000 people. Through BRAC, the base expects to gain 1,200 jobs by September 2011.

And while it’s nice to take credit for BRAC, for the DDC to claim that its performance is worth a 24% bonus sure says that our elected representatives and paid government employees are totally incompetent at doing any kind of lobbying on our behalf. How can this be?

As part of its efforts to boost defense-related jobs, the coalition said it is using $15 million from the state of Ohio in Third Frontier funds to help nurture business start-ups with a strong tie to Wright-Patterson and the newly established aerospace innovation hub in Dayton. According to the coalition, $10 million in Third Frontier funds have gone to about 40 companies and created 241 new jobs with an average salary of $51,658.

via Group says bonuses tied to job growth around Wright-Patterson.

And this is the final proof that the Coalition is smoke and mirrors and a slush fund for “public private” money to be disbursed to friends and family- see my flow chart from 2008. Take a look at the posts about “The Turner Effect” and see how your tax dollars were spent no-bid by this organization. But- let’s look at the numbers- $10 million to create 241 jobs- $41,493 per job- that will average $51,658- with subsidies like that, anyone can “create jobs.”

It’s time to ask for our money back. It’s time to create an honest economic development program regionally- that consolidates economic development efforts and stops internecine battles for table scraps.

Maybe a better way to do economic development is to take all this money and just remove permit fees and to speed processes – so that we don’t have to read stories like the Ghostlight Coffee shop story I posted yesterday. And before we pay bonuses to these stuffed suits from the Coalition- let’s look at paying our City Managers bonuses based on growing the tax base, raising average household income and delivering public services for less. That our city manager makes so much less than Mr. Leftwich is an insult to the people who take real responsibility for tax dollars- instead of getting to play with it like monopoly money.

Which organization is going to ask for its money back first?

Is Dayton a land of opportunity for Veterans?

We’ve heard the Richard Florida argument for a culture centered around the “Creative Class” as a driver of economic prosperity. Yet, the “creative class” is somewhat a matter of opinion- and it’s something that any community could have a shot at.

The Dayton Development Coalition talks about their four key focuses as drivers of economic development.

Advanced Materials and Manufacturing
The unique and compelling nature of our industry allows us to quickly transform innovations into processes and products.

Aerospace R&D
The advances achieved by our Aerospace R&D community gives ample evidence that the Air Force Research Laboratory and their hundreds of industry and university partners in our region have formed the preeminent aeronautical research and development center in the world.

Healthcare and Human Sciences
Aeromedical research, training, and acquisition elements are being consolidated into a Center of Excellence for Human Performance at Wright-Patt, accompanied by 21 existing regional hospitals, medical schools, training facilities and human science-focused businesses.

IT / Data Management
The Dayton Region is a global leader in understanding how the innovative use of information can transform people’s lives.

via GetMidwest.com – Dayton Region.

These are all business focuses- and leave out the most critical part: social capital. How do we really get these things done if the people who do these things have a really good reason to operate here instead of elsewhere. Sure, there is the base- with its huge R&D budget, but in a virtual world, that money could be spent here or in San Jose without much difference to the contracting officer.

Having a major military installation nearby is a good economic engine to rely on, but with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq winding down, and our economy in shambles, it would be foolhardy not to expect cutbacks in the military budget.

However, there is one thing the wars have created a bountiful supply of: veterans, and more specifically, service disabled veterans. Besides being a logistics center, WPAFB has a medical center that is serving a multi-state area for transitioning seriously injured vets. We also have the Dayton VA Medical Center- another large treatment facility- toss in the Wright State University with one of the nation’s most accessible campuses with extensive experience in handling students with disabilities and all of a sudden, you start to realize that we may have a strong positioning potential to become a community of choice for disabled veterans to put down roots.

When I was in the Army and traveling from post to post- I could tell which communities embraced their soldiers and which didn’t. Fayettville NC, Augusta GA both seemed to loathe the kids in uniform- while the people of Columbus GA welcomed us and treated us with respect. Dayton has always seemed to be somewhat apathetic- but leaning toward respect. Of course, I also often marveled at the star power on base- when first arriving here I saw more stars on shoulders in one trip to the BX than I’d seen in 2+ years of active duty on an Army post.

With this idea of starting to market Dayton as a great place for disabled veterans to retire and reside- will require additional support of local businesses in their commitment to hire these brave young men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country- but also a strong support network to assist them in starting and running their own businesses. The Federal Government passed a law in 2003 requiring all Federal contracts to have 3% Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) participation- a goal that’s not even remotely close to being met. Quite a few States have also given SDVOB and even Veteran Owned Businesses (VOB) preference in bidding. Ohio has not shown an interest- although they did vote to make military retirement pay not eligible for State income taxes.

For the last four plus years, a small group of which I’m a founding member has worked to support and grow VOBs in the region. We’re the representatives of NaVOBA here in SW Ohio and just received our 501C6 designation as a non-profit.

Vet Biz Now! Flyer for event

Click on image for Printable PDF

This Oct 14th, from 11 to 2 we’ll be hosting our first event, Vet Biz Now, bringing in a nationally recognized expert in the field:

Scott Denniston, former Director of Small Business Programs and the Center for Veterans Enterprise at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will present a status update on Vet Biz opportunities.

Seating is limited for this lunch event at the Hope Hotel at WPAFB in Dayton. Please make reservations at www.vob108.org/vetbiznow $20 includes lunch.

via Vet Biz Now! Oct. 14 2010, Dayton Ohio — VOB108.

Besides Scott discussing the state of Veteran Business opportunities and a status update, VOB108 will be making some presentations of success stories- and highlighting some area VOB that are making a difference.

We welcome you to attend, and ask that if you know any Veterans who own their own business to inform them of this event.

Small business has been one of the saving graces through this economic crisis, with all the programs available and becoming made available to help assist these wounded warriors transition back to civilian life- this could be an effort that is both good for our country and our community and our souls.