‘As Goes Janesville’ screens Wednesday in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

‘As Goes Janesville’ screens Wednesday in Steamboat

Michael Schrantz

Mary Wilmer and James Otterstein, both team members of the Rock County 5.0 initiative, discuss strategies to boost economic development to create a better future for Rock County. The documentary "As Goes Janesville" shows the work of the Rock County 5.0 initiative. The film screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library.

— In June 2008, Janesville, Wis., learned its General Motors plant was winding down production and planned to close by the end of 2010.

The city became a microcosm of nationwide struggles: the decline of American manufacturing, the fight about the future of public unions, and families slipping out of the middle class.

The documentary "As Goes Janesville," which screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library, shows all these forces at work in the midst of a contentious political environment in Wisconsin, but it's the rebuilding efforts in Janesville that might draw the most interest for Steamboat Springs residents.

A group of business leaders form a group called Rock County 5.0 with the aim of drawing new companies and investment to the Janesville area.

Its members work to woo a medical isotope company with an incentive package built with public funds.

While the loss of 11,000 jobs with a GM plant closure in no way compares to Routt County's current economic situation, the use of public resources to attract or keep businesses is a topic of local interest as the Steamboat Springs City Council contemplates selling a city-owned building to Big Agnes and Honey Stinger for well below its $3 million appraised value.

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The sale has been dubbed a "economic development deal" by city officials. And former City Manager Jon Roberts was praised for a renegotiation of SmartWool's lease at Steamboat Springs Airport that used public funds up front.

"Will we constantly be chasing after organizations that want to stay here with taxpayer dollars and taxpayer resources?" council member Cari Hermacinski asked at a recent City Council meeting.

Brad Lichtenstein, the film’s director, said he was at a screening in Wilmington, Del., where the mayor said “Those people are crazy” about Janesville’s specific situation. Lichtenstein said Janesville’s business leaders started off in an inclusive manner but got sidetracked and let the partisanship of their circumstances derail them.

As the sale of the city building to Big Agnes has drawn some criticism in Steamboat, the film shows people at a Janesville City Council meeting questioning the decision their city is about to make.

Steamboat’s City Council voted to negotiate the sale with Big Agnes, but giving away Janesville’s decision counts as a spoiler.

Carl Steidtmann, a Steamboat resident and chief economist at Deloitte Research, will be at the screening for discussion after.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

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