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Did you hear the good news? Charter Communications, Inc. is opening an headquarters in Henrietta and creating more than 220 jobs! The company, which just purchased Time Warner cable, will invest $2.9 million in the move.


Governor Andrew Cuomo visited Rochester to make the announcement.

Here’s what was not said.

The state is giving Charter up to $2,5 million in Excelsior Jobs tax credits, meaning the company isn’t investing much at all.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found the Excelsior Jobs program is riddled with problems. Companies collected money without creating the promised jobs. Among them was Xerox, which also got a call center on the taxpayer dime.

Some of these new jobs will be at Charter’s call center. While these jobs are important to individuals, they are bad economic development policy. Call centers notoriously have high turnover and low pay.

The headquarters will be in the Calkins Road area of Henrietta. The first bus doesn’t arrive until around 9 a.m. and the last one leaves before 6 p.m. This means workers will likely have to drive. Transportation is a huge barrier to employment for many people. If we are serious about reducing poverty, we should withhold incentives from firms that do not locate jobs near people or on high service bus lines.

Charter Communications is now the second largest cable provider in the United States. It earned several billion dollars in profits last year. It earns BILLIONS of dollars and wants our help building out an office in Henrietta?

Instead of us helping Charter, the governor should be asking Charter to help us. Hey Charter, will you provide fiber internet, a la carte cable packages and lower charges for equipment rentals?

We need the jobs, especially after Verizon’s announcement is will shut down its Henrietta call center, killing 600 positions. (That’s what’s wrong with the call center economy. There’s no permanency.) But instead of making the business climate better for everyone, the state bribes a select few. The end result is one of the slowest growing economies in the nation. This kind of corporate welfare is not working and it’s not reaching the area’s neediest citizens.

Meanwhile, our cable bills are remain high.

13 Responses to Checking the Charter Deal

  1. November 16, 2016 at 8:25 am Jim Webster responds:

    I’m just curious Rachel, is your glass ever 1/2 full?

    • November 16, 2016 at 8:28 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Yes, read my new book. It actually shows I’m an idealist at heart. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to call out this stuff.

  2. I’ll say this about call center jobs: they’re high-turnover for a reason. Most people who work at call centers – including myself, many years ago – do so because they have no prior experience in their chosen fields. Working a call center job is a foot in the door.

    I’m not saying anything here is wrong. But for as transient as call center jobs tend to be, I know of a lot of people who used them to lift themselves up and get better jobs. Temporary jobs suck, but springboards are worth the money, IMO.

  3. A call center job is still a job. Many of our citizens who couldn’t graduate from high school and can’t get high quality jobs now have a source of income and the pride of working to better themselves.
    A high tech job, from say a photonics company, may require skills in physics, math or engineering. These are jobs that cannot be filled by the many of the products of the Rochester City School District.
    Entry level jobs are good for people who need to further develop skills.
    As for transportation, carpooling is a possibility. Or perhaps a bus could be taken to somewhere central, such as MCC, and Charter would provide shuttle service.
    When you see a problem, try to think of a solution.

    • November 16, 2016 at 9:36 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      As I noted, they’re good for the people who get them. But as policy, these aren’t the kinds of jobs we should be cheering. Transportation issue is easily solved: don’t locate low-paying jobs in Henrietta. Van-pooling is going to start soon in the city to solve this issue. I’m eager to see how it works out.

      • How can you tell someone where to locate??? Why not have all the stores in Marketplace Mall move downtown?

        Drive out to Henrietta. There are business there. People work at them. This is not new.

        Why did they choose Henrietta? Possibly because of accessibility to various towns and to avoid traffic. Possibly because of parking.
        If they went downtown, then people who live in the towns and aren’t on a direct bus line would need to drive and then pay for parking. Free parking is a nice perk.

  4. If enough people want / need to take the bus there on off hours I am sure the BUS will come.

    Always amazing how there are more press and politicians in town and in front of cameras when jobs are coming to ROC,. But Mario’s son and entourage were never here in front of camera or more important in the CEOs office when the CEO at Xerox …who was on Obama’s keep jobs in the US committee, moved 1000s of higher paying engineering jobs from ROC to India.

  5. November 16, 2016 at 12:59 pm Anonymous responds:

    Rachel, I agree with everything you said. Call center jobs are the worst jobs ever and it seems Rochester is now the call center capital of the world. Call centers are the sweatshops of the modern era and I feel bad for people getting stuck in such an awful job.

  6. November 17, 2016 at 8:24 am Some Guy responds:

    Where is the state constitution did the people give this power to state government? Is arbitrarily picking winners and losers a power that can even be legitimately granted to government?

  7. The problem with these tax credits is there is no evidence they really create or maintain jobs. In fact, an artificial tax benefit should have no bearing on a business decision to keep or consolidate a call center for the sake of efficiency. Even with Charter’s regional HQ, Rochester is still at a loss because it is offset by the imminent loss of 600+ Verizon Wireless call center employees leaving in January.

    Call centers are not the kind of business we should be offering tax breaks to create or keep because they are too fleeting. Telecom companies in particular are moving to eliminate call center positions by offering customers self-service online services instead. Verizon Wireless has crowed about this for two years, so it comes as no surprise their call center is closing here. Charter Communications trumpeted to shareholders that a benefit of its acquisition of Time Warner Cable was upgrading cable plant to manage remote service turn-ons and shut-offs, dramatically reducing the need for truck rolls and customer service calls. Self-install kits, online service functionality, and online chat support are all designed to reduce, not increase jobs for call center workers and technicians in the next 2-5 years.

    The arrival of Charter in town is not that exciting, particularly because other cable companies may end up acquiring it if the incoming Trump Administration allows a merger and acquisition frenzy. Then say hello to a company like Altice, notorious for making employees bring their own toiletries and toner cartridges to the office, or the ever-evil Comcast. Either would send off Charter’s new regional HQ into a permanent goodnight with or without tax credits.

    Tax credits should be targeted to manufacturing companies or those with significant start up costs that otherwise could be cut to the bone going offshore. The idea is not to create a race to the bottom but rather a reason a business can make an economic case to build a business in this area and have the numbers to support that argument. One must always expect businesses not to have allegiances to taxing authorities or public benefit corporations, but rather to their shareholders and/or owners. You must invest in infrastructure, a well-educated workforce, and provide evidence of an adequate and compelling market to attract and hold businesses. Most folks fall into the “deregulation” mantra, but this has not stopped offshoring even in states where deregulation frenzies have taken place.

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