Lost Opportunity Cost

By Jim Sack

Trouble at Electric Works has delayed the Science Center planetarium.

Let me explain.

Electric Works is a multi-hundred million dollar deal. Our share is $65 million, probably closer to $100 million when all is counted.

That’s a ton of money by Fort Wayne standards and because no one single source of funding is that substantial our share is drawn from many sources, including $10 million from the Legacy Fund.

Long ago council and the mayor agreed not to spend down the Legacy below a certain level. We are there and then some. The $10 million pledged to EW causes the fund to dip below the safe mark. Another $500k to Science Central was just too much for council to approve, so the SC proposal was held indefinitely pending clarification of EW’s future.

This drain on community reserves has been a concern of the mayor and deputy mayor since EW’s developers first demanded we taxpayers become a major investor in their project.

Our share, $65 to $100 million, not only is a lot of money but also means that money would not be there for other needs, such as infrastructure, Science Central, the schools, parks, and every other project on the community’s wish list. The phenomenon is called “lost opportunity cost.” “Gee honey, it is the best deal ever, but all of our money is tied up.”

The delay in funding the planetarium is not the first example of the administration delaying projects, but it is the most public example. The delay could result in the planetarium not going forward, period.

But, wait, there is more. The recent series of articles concerning troubles at EW bring to light how big a gamble EW is. The developers have simply failed to generate enough signed leases to trigger additional funding. Business managers are not sold, especially with a trade-war-happy president in charge of the economy. In frustration, EW fingers are pointing in every direction in an effort to find a scapegoat for a sputtering project.

EW developers were to have reported to council by early May on their status so the Nine would feel comfortable in granting the additional Legacy money to Science Central. EW has not shown up for that public hearing, so council delayed the Science Center project a second time.

It is a lot of money, a big gamble with so much taxpayer money. Putting all of our eggs in one basket is looking less and less likely.