Monday, September 21, 2009

Follow-up to "Due Diligence and Oxford Aviation"

Side is well aware that you were teased with the prospect of a forthcoming "breaking story." And we here at headquarters are looking sorely ashamed for not having delivered on that tease.

There are reasons, although a critical reader would consider them petty personal problems, so I won't go into them.

Instead, I am posting the text of the statement Side presented to the Brunswick Town Council tonight, which addresses the "breaking story" issue without going into exhaustive detail. The text has been slightly edited only for readability in this format.


• I’m here tonight because I am extremely, and I mean extremely concerned about base redevelopment and how it will relate to and affect this town.

• I’ve yet to see any evidence that town government has even begun to grapple with the challenges, obligations, burdens, and expenses that will accrue to it as the transition gets underway.

• I don’t believe any work has been done to determine the “business model” for the immediate future as the base closes, and in the longer term as the MRRA departs the scene. If it has, I haven’t seen or read any evidence of it.

• For the life of me, I can’t understand how this could be. I could talk about ostriches and elephants and monkey trios, but they wouldn’t communicate my concerns with sufficient force. So instead I’ll use the word negligence, unless you can convince me otherwise. The negligence amounts to running from your duties.

• I suppose it’s easy to get wrapped up in the Maine Street Station buildings, the excitement about a new school, new police buildings, and all those other fun things.

• Well let me slap you upside the head with a verbal 2 x 4. The MRRA is about to make the town of Brunswick a partner in a very sketchy business proposition, one month from now, whether we want to or not, and without the slightest due diligence or agreement on the town’s part.

• Oxford Aviation has been getting considerable examination these days, no thanks to our local paper. We should be grateful that the Forecaster sees this as a worthy issue to investigate and report on.

• MRRA is about to lease the single biggest, newest, most valuable facility on the base to a company whose reputation and resume are, to be kind, problematic; a company that feels it’s in their best interest to use a celebrity California attorney as their public face. His stake in Oxford’s future is mysterious, just as the details of the lease are completely unknown. But as you’ll recall, Commissioner Richardson says “protocols” are necessary and “confidentiality is king.”

• Poppycock, balderdash, and nonsense. This is the business of the public being conducted by a public body using public funds. And they are about to saddle the town and the region with the consequences of this transaction before the town wakes up and gets its pants on.

• The greater part of my career was spent in business development, where a good deal of time and attention was spent on market analysis and understanding the competition. From time to time, potential acquisitions came into view.

• Due diligence was the key to making sure that that investments required were based on sound analysis and facts, and that a reasonable return on any investment could be expected.

• We see none of this discipline and rigor in our current situation. Instead, we see undue negligence. It’s amazing how working with other people’s money can eliminate the healthy skepticism and survivalist instincts that would otherwise apply.

• Well, just to see what was going on, I conducted a little “due diligence” myself this weekend. I used a sophisticated research apparatus called Go Ogle. Some people pronounce it “google,” I think.

• I researched the competitive landscape in “aircraft painting” and “commercial aircraft painting.” What I found in this brief effort astonished me and set off reasonability alarms. I am convinced that further study is urgently called for, and would amass a wealth of vital and troubling information before any commitments are made.

• We don’t have time to go through details here. I will simply say that F. Lee Bailey’s grandiose pronouncements of an international business base and global leadership in aviation for Brunswick are bizarre and unwarranted, and should be completely disregarded until such time as a serious and objective case study and business plan is developed. But given the politics of the situation, it’s more likely I’ll have a full head of hair when I wake up tomorrow morning. And I almost forgot about his teasing us with contracts ready to go if we would please, please, please just sign on the dotted line.

• Numerous well established companies exist to serve this marketplace, many with multiple facilities, some bigger than Hangar 6, with complete painting, engine and structural maintenance, and avionics capabilities. With established and proven business relationships with Airbus, airlines, and others. In other words, on a prima facie basis, buying into Oxford’s promises seems reckless and irresponsible at this point. I see no reason to believe this David can conquer numerous Goliaths. Especially when you are putting public money and public assets at risk.

• Perhaps these realities were a major factor in OSO backing out of venture financing for Oxford in Sanford. Not to mention that commercial aviation is not exactly a growth business these days, with routes and expenses being cut everywhere you look.

• Unless this council takes immediate and forceful action, you will have committed the citizens of this town to a partnership with Oxford of unknown consequence and unknown costs, and with zero understanding of the long term effects on the town. How much will it cost to provide fire protection and other public safety coverage? What other obligations will be incumbent on the town and those who pay the bills? How big an iceberg are we heading for?

• I don’t see how you can possibly stand by and watch this happen. I don’t understand why you haven’t already planned a weekend retreat or something of similar scale to get away from the normal course of town business, where you can come to a thorough understanding of the scope and consequences of base transition so that an orderly plan can be developed and executed, and so that your constituents will know what to expect.

• We’d like to see the trains come to Brunswick. Based on the foregoing, I suggest we may see a major train wreck before regular service arrives, and nobody can see it coming or assure us that it will be avoided in time.

• I’ve heard from some people that the town has “no voice in this matter.” Well, you better find one. To start with, our Town Manager is on the MRRA Board of Directors. If that doesn’t give us a voice and full disclosure, than we’re in a far more political and troubling mess than I thought, and I’m pretty damn cynical in such matters.

• And maybe you should think about issuing a disclaimer to MRRA and Oxford saying that Brunswick officially declines any financial obligations or encumbrances now and in the future. If that doesn’t get some attention, the battle is truly lost.

• I’ll close with an irony or two; I just can’t help it. I don’t know how many times I’ve read complaints in the paper about the disturbing practice of “corporate welfare and tax loopholes” for greedy capitalists, and how they’ve got to be stopped. Hmmmm; it’s hard not to snicker given the situation we’re in.

• Then there’s our environmentally concerned neighbors. I well remember the great poop deliberations of some years back, or should I say “biosolids.” When the debate against application could not be won on the merits, the arguments came down to “but why take a chance?”

• Now we’re entertaining the stripping, metallurgical treatment, and painting of massive high speed aircraft. It would seem that the environmental and toxicity challenges here are immense, and I suggest, completely unknown and undisclosed in the case before us. Yet I hear nor read nary a peep.

• Oh well. Don’t worry, be happy, I guess. It’s ever so much easier.

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