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.