Sunday, March 30, 2014

Return of the pigeons….


We know this doesn’t make much sense, but it rolls off the keyboard better than “When the pigeons come back to Cap-es-brunswick.”  Not that we haven’t had our own history involving swallows, compliments of Jacquie P. and others.

None-the-more, we’ve from time to time mentioned that when you feed the pigeons, you get more pigeons.  And at the moment, we see a pigeon feeding frenzy at the municipal feed dispenser.


As proof, here we see Directors of the Brunswick Development Corporation (BDC), simply trying to take a break on the Mall, descended upon by said pigeons.  Which leads us to a conclusion.

Anyone who thinks the Brunswick Taxi quarter million dollar gift from BDC wouldn’t change things here in the Cape should put down their jug of Kool-Aid and get a piping hot cup of high caffeine coffee.  After what we’re about to discuss, you may or may not want to get it at Wild Oats.

We suppose some might quibble with the pigeon imagery, but we decided it was ever so much more tasteful than pigs feeding at the trough.  And we’re all about taste, as you know.

You might find this one more pleasing, since it shows pig ‘children’ feeding, and we all know ‘children are our future.’   Irresistible, don’t you agree?  Oink, oink.

We don’t know if you’ve seen the latest news about BDC activities, but no matter.  We’re going to review it for you.  As you read the news, make sure you remind yourselves how local sensibilities over the years have taken offense at ‘corporate tax breaks,’ ‘corporate subsidies,’ ‘loopholes,’ and similar travesties of the relationship between evil capitalists and long-suffering taxpayers.  Such things only happen elsewhere, where enlightenment has not visited upon the populace and their benevolent leaders as it has here.

Throw in ‘corporate cronyism’ while you’re at it.  And then remind yourself of how fortunate we are to have it banned by municipal fiat in our perfect richest little town in America.

Alright, let’s dispense with the pontificating and frivolity and get on with business.  From what we read, the BDC is being besought with requests for grants (and loans in limited cases) from entities far and wide, regardless of whether they are established and successful or not.  Sadly, because of prior spendthrift actions, the BDC finds itself running out of slop.  Wait; make that pigeon food.  No, make that public funds. 

There just aren’t enough teats on the old town sow; mothers milk and access to it are limited.  Those with a connection to the sow may be able to help, if approached with due reverence, we suspect.


This situation is doubly tragic, because councilor Johnny Protocols (known to many of you as GoJo), a BDC board member, is rumored to be “in discussions with no less than a dozen Fortune One Million firms looking to prosper within our boundaries.”  How lucky can we taxpayers get?

According to recent reports, the BDC is down to less than $400,000 in working capital.  Yet they were expected to consider almost $600,000 in outright grant requests at a meeting just the other day, with a smidgeon more than that as ‘loans,’ an almost unheard of term lately.  We have no news on what the meeting outcome was, but it doesn’t matter.  The message, devoted readers, is in the requests themselves.

Do you know what ‘rent seeking’ means?  We owned rental property some time ago, and found ourselves constantly ‘seeking rent,’ but that was something entirely different.

We learned of the term only recently, and you need to do so as well, because the BDC and the applications they consider are exemplars of the concept.  Here’s the dictionary definition:


noun Economics 

1. the act or process of using one’s assets and resources to increase one’s share of existing wealth without creating new wealth.

2. (specifically) the act or process of exploiting the political process or manipulating the economic environment to increase one’s revenue or profits.

We think this little diversion is apropos our discussion, and we’ll have more to say on the subject as we proceed.


The four applicants are:

  1. RollEase, which is opening a satellite office and product innovation center at Brunswick Landing, site of the former naval air station, is seeking grant money of up to $150,000. 

You may not know about RollEase, but perhaps you remember Greg Farr, their Senior VP since 2011.  Here’s a bio from the RollEase web site:


Greg joined RollEase in January 2011 as Senior Vice President and is responsible for all operations (manufacturing, distribution, purchasing and logistics), marketing, engineering, quality control and customer service functions at the Company.  Greg has more than 23 years experience in the industry and has held various senior management roles with the two largest participants in the industry.  Prior to arriving at RollEase he spent four years as Senior Vice President for Springs Window Fashions and 14 years in a variety of roles at Hunter Douglas, including as Vice President/Business Unit Manager for one of their largest divisions.

It sure didn’t take Greg long to learn the ropes in Lake Basebegone; no doubt a sweetheart deal at the base, and now he wants $150,000 in a gift.  That must be some fine business he’s got there.  Maybe he should have named it Oxford Window Treatments; or Kestrel Slats. 

We remember Greg from his role in an ill-fated startup advocacy group called “Brunswick First” that was looking to bring some common sense to Brunswick governance and promote the town ‘brand.’  As we recall, Greg was then newly retired, and a recent arrival in town.

When the group got no traction, Greg became the ED at the Brunswick Downtown Association, and among other things, created the yellow flag approach to crossing Maine Street, which flamed out as fast as Brunswick First.  Seems like overnight Greg left the area, but just as quickly has returned, this time as the RollEase guy.  He must have smelled a good deal at the base, and we can only guess how much he “rolled” MRRA and taxpayers for to take up residence on the former base.

Now he wants his company to get a $150,000 gift from local taxpayers.  BTW, before we forget, did we tell you that one of Greg’s colleagues in the Brunswick First initiative was Dale King?

Where have we heard that name before?  We have a hazy recollection about a Rolling Easy Taxi Company, but it just might be a fig newton of our imagination.

You’re probably thinking that RollEase is some kind of start-up venture, and can’t possibly survive without MRRA benevolence and BDC grants.  Au contraire, mon amis.

Check this passage from their website (

RollEase designs, manufactures and markets manual operating systems and accessories for soft and hard window coverings for use in both commercial and residential applications. Established in 1980, RollEase is the leading designer and largest manufacturer of premium clutch-based window covering operating systems worldwide and the third largest distributor of roller shade fabric in the USA. RollEase serves all segments of the domestic and international window covering industry including OEM's, fabricators, workrooms, commercial contractors, interior designers, architects, retailers, internet and mail order catalogs.

So they’ve been around for nearly 35 years, and are leaders in their industry.  But Greg is teaching them how to pull a few local strings to keep those window coverings going up and down.  And how to ‘roll’ Brunswick taxpayers in the process.

2.  The Brunswick Farmers’ Market Association is seeking $142,000 to change their location by renovating and moving to the old freight shed owned by Brooks Feed & Farm.

Excuse us?  Isn’t farming a personal choice as a way to make a living?  The farmer’s market has been in existence for longer than we can remember, and is doing very well on both the Town Mall and at Crystal Springs Farm.  Why is it that the public, in addition to being loyal customers, should be expected to give them a GRANT of $142,000 to do even better?  See the sow photo posted above, and see the definition of ‘rent seeking’ to answer the question.  And think of ‘rent seeking’ as an epidemic threatening our food chain.

3.  An outdoor speaker company, CAMM Inc./Terra Speakers is looking for $236,000 “in a grant or loan.”  They operate on Old Portland Road, and are ‘looking to expand.’  Well, aren’t we all?

Thank goodness someone has finally invented outdoor speakers.  What a breakthrough!  We expect the town to buy several hundred thousand worth to mount around the downtown area.  They’ll be used to trumpet Downeaster arrivals and departures five times a day; and to summons the faithful to the virtual mecca for such rituals.  Not to mention ‘noticing’ of important meetings so they can be held without printed warnings.

And now, the request that really fries our axle around our shorts.

4.  Wild Oats Bakery is applying for $214,000, 2/3rds of which would be a grant.  They want to ‘expand operations at Brunswick Landing.’

Well, there’s the secret password, as Groucho Marx might have said.  Cue the duck with the check for 214 large.

From our earliest days in Brunswick’s downtown, at least 30 years ago, we remember Wild Oats as a fixture, and we have always relished their baked goods and other delights.  It seems to us they have expanded/grown on 5 or 6 occasions since those days, and have prospered mightily ever since.  The place is usually jammed, they run out of our favorites before the day is over, and they are nobody’s idea of a cheap date.

We’re not suggesting they should be; we only mean to point out they have a very successful and well established business model, and have managed to do so while charging prices that should be comfortably profitable.  Besides, you’d think all the new business deriving from Downeaster passengers would give them excess working capital for the next steps.

If they don’t have the capital and cash flow to expand on their own, or get a fine loan from local banks, nobody would.  We’re offended, frankly, that they would come to local taxpayers to seek a handout.  You never know; this could be a result of the owner’s years on the School Board, where the expectation is that others should pay the price for whatever one wants.


Now that we’ve ‘digested’ all the foregoing, we have a ‘development’ idea of our own.  We’re going to ask the BDC to give us a grant for $500,000, of which a buck two ninety five would be a loan, to start a campaign to have Cape Brunswick become the permanent site of the Annual Chutzpah Award Ceremony. 


There are more than enough candidates for the awards nationally, but you’ve got to admit that here in our little corner of perfection we have our fair share of those who deserve the award.  We don’t know any exactly like this one:


but she has nothing on some local ‘stars.’

Chutzpah, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.


That’s it for now; we’ve got to get up early to take a little piggy to market.


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