Most everyone believes that corporate welfare is a bad thing. You do not need to look far to find examples of public officials lending money to companies, only to be left with very little to show for it.
In 2010, two Washington County commissioners, Diana Irey Vaughan and Bracken Burns, voted to help 84 Lumber. They agreed to allow the federal government to use a portion of Washington County’s community development block grant to guarantee a loan from the federal government to 84 Lumber. The loan also used 84 Lumber real estate as collateral.
At the time, the commissioners, especially Irey Vaughan, were the subject of criticism because it was viewed as corporate welfare. From what I know about 84 Lumber, it has hundreds of employees in the county, and thousands of employees across the country. Many of those employed in Washington County also live in the county. I imagine that the loan helped keep those jobs here and our neighbors here. One can only assume that the company is doing better now that the national housing market has been in a recovery. We haven’t heard of a default by 84 Lumber on this loan, so we should assume that there has not been one.
If 84 Lumber had closed, no one knows it would have had on our county and our neighbors – declining property values and fewer purchases at local businesses would be the start. From there, who knows?
Thankfully, no one does know, because it was averted by Irey Vaughan and Burns voting to do what they thought was the right thing, even though it was unpopular. Had this loan gone bad, I am sure that hundreds of people would have written letters saying how bad the loan was. But since the loan has not gone bad, no one writes letters saying how good it was. So I have.
Eric A. Rauscher