Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Business Idea For Southbridge

After watching the candidates for Southbridge Town Council “debate” I remain essentially unimpressed.

As they have for years they all decried the town’s reliance on landfill revenues and proclaimed their opposition to steadily rising property taxes. The solution according to all of them was to stimulate new business that would expand our tax base as well as provide employment for town residents.

However, not one of them has put forward any kind of plan for such a business or a practical means for enticing any such business to locate in Southbridge. 

With that in mind, allow me to put forward one idea that might offer the basis for such an endeavor.

The one thing that Southbridge has at its disposal is an abundance of water.

It is my understanding that, at present, only a small fraction of this resource is used by Southbridge residents. Efforts have been made to sell water to neighboring communities, but the revenues from such sales are relatively miniscule given that the fees that can be charged are tightly regulated.

Why can’t this resource be used as a means to enter the market for bottled water? Annually the revenues from bottled water sales in the U.S. amount to around $12 billion.

Clearly it would take a detailed analysis of the volume of water that could be devoted to such an enterprise. I don’t have the data to make such an analysis, but I have no doubt that such information is available to our director of economic development.

Assuming that sufficient water is available to underwrite such a project it would then have to be ascertained what projected revenues could be generated from the sale of such water as a bottled product.

It would then be necessary to determine what infrastructure costs would be associated with such a plan including a bottling plant, marketing force, transportation, etc.

Finally a determination would have to be made as to the structure of such an effort. Could it be done within the rubric of existing enterprise fund laws? Could enabling legislation be enacted that would allow that as an option? Could there be a joint town government/private enterprise format? As a final option, could there be a private enterprise solution tethered to a mutually acceptable contractual arrangement? 

I grant that at present this is merely an idea that needs to be researched and fleshed out. However, it seems to me to be one that is far more than anything else we currently have.


  1. I actually looked into this when I was on the council. Water bottling companies want water from a spring, not from a reservoir. That shouldn't keep us from going our own way but it makes it difficult to work with the large companies that do this.
    Regarding attracting business to town, we actually have very little property zoned for industrial use. To make the best use of that property, we'd have to decide how much tax revenue we'd ultimately want to raise and then go after companies that can generate that revenue. Supporting small shops in the industrial park will never get us to financial independence. Setting realistic goals would take a lot of planning and effort, something the town is not very good at.

    1. Rich, I think you'll find that a lot of the water now being marketed is not from springs. Take a look, for instance at the case of Nestle, arguably the largest bottled water supplier worldwide. A number are even supplying ordinary tap water. Given a domestic market of $12 billion, even a minor dent could be potentially quite lucrative.

  2. Not a bad idea. But it is only an idea. There is a reason that three out of four new business start-ups in this country fail within 5 years. Only one in a hundred turn into anything eventually. The other problem is we've seen what happens in this town when we turn over operations to private enterprise. Ever since the Council turned over the water and sewer utilities to private management companies escalating rates have been a problem. And there's the landfill. Turned that over to a private company, Casella. Environmentally unsound, poisoning our neighbors drinking water, a threat to other water resources. And what would you call the bottled water? "Casella's Landfill Bouquet?"

    1. Of course it’s only an idea, you moron. That’s the reason for the title.
      Your criticism is made up of the same fabric of cynicism, discontent and ignorance as your candidacy for town council. You criticize every aspect of the town and yet offer no “ideas” to improve anything. Your thinking is as black and white as your now defunct editorial cartoons.
      The idea may be lacking in merit, but if that’s the case point out why. Don’t just level blanket criticisms that could apply to any idea.

  3. Train the WorkersJune 23, 2016 at 6:38 AM

    I have heard tell of this "Industrial Park" for more years than I can remember. I know it is supposed to be up near the land fill. Didn't we build up to the landfill in part to gain a better access to the industrial park? Although I like the idea of the water bottling operation where would it be located?

    What is the status of the property that is located at the old AO facility. There is a lot of land and buildings that are going to waste down there. What kind of tax deal has been made to the management company or to any of the two or three business that are located there?

    The old AO complex would be a great place to locate customer support and service companies that do not require access to highways for shipping. It would also make a great place to locate a prison. We need to find businesses where the need for the aforementioned access to highways is minimal.

    Expanding the footprint of Quinsigamond Community College is a great idea for this community. We should investigate bringing in some of the other colleges to locate satellite campuses here in Southbridge. How about a Vocational / Technical college like Springfield Tech. There are many potential students for this type of education here in Southbridge because of the "National Lie" and promise of a college education.

    This national lie is part of the problem we are experiancing in our school systems, particularly here in Southbridge. The following college dropout rates are telling. These rates are the national average, but if you took a survey of all past students at SHS who entered into a four year college the dropout rate would be exponentially higher. (however no one tracks those numbers) A college education has more return on investment for a graduate in the United States than any other nation
    More than 75% of students required to take remedial classes never graduate
    70% of Americans will study at a 4-year college, but less than 2/3 will graduate
    30% of college and university students drop out after their first year.
    (Also remember that these statistics are based on a six year cohort.)

    If we are really serious about improving the economy of Southbridge we need to bring in business who will train there workers, not just hire them. We need to expand our school system to include vocational training. Bring back the metal, wood, and auto shops. And, don't tell me that those are availible at Bay Path becuase the students who need that type of education are barred from it because Bay Path can cherry pick the students it admits.

    I guess the bottom line for economic improvement in Southbridge needs to be the improvement of the local workforce by providing them with the skills needed to compete in the manufacturing and industrial workplace.


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