September 17, 2008: Resort facts need to be untangled
To The Editor:
Three recent writers took issue with our newsletter detailing jobs to be created by the Belleayre Resort. Their responses were a bit twisted and should be untangled again.
First, one writer said we should “apply some logic to the issues on the table.” She went on to assert that we’d have to “send our kids for expensive hospitality degrees from places like the Rochester Institute of Technology so they’ll be ready when the resort finally opens.” But we noted that two vocational high school programs already teach the skills people will need and SUNY Delhi offers more than a dozen two- and four-year degree programs in every hospitality discipline related to food, golfing or recreation. So the logic tells us that if anyone around here wants a job at a resort – ours or anyone else’s – it’s easy to get qualified.
Two writers don’t dispute the fact that locals will get these good jobs. Rather, they make assumptions. They guess that Crossroads will sell the permits to a new hotel and that the new operator will immediately throw out this job plan and opt for one with low-wage, dead-end jobs. Well where’s the logic in that? No matter who owns or manages the property, investors will be risking upwards of $400 million to build the resort. For that money, and with the permits in hand, they would have to build the high-end resort planned.
The investors will need to secure their investment by hiring and training a highly qualified staff and paying them salaries commensurate with similar positions elsewhere in the US. Any high-end national or international chain that would invest this kind of money here would have no choice but to be paying the same high-end wages they pay at all their other facilities - that is how they maintain their reputations and their brands.
The numbers we provided did not come from a budget, nor was it represented as such. The numbers reflected a staffing plan and salary schedule that experts in the industry say would be required. We relied on data provided in a Hospitality Compensation Exchange study and information from experts at one of the world’s leading hospitality consulting firms.
We realize that to many weekenders who are not earning a living around here, $30,000 for an entry level job that has a full benefit package and career opportunities to go with it might seem offensive. But for those who must earn a living around here, it’s a pretty good start. The goal of our newsletter was to put the matter of jobs into some sort of perspective and the perspective of those who must earn a living here is vastly different from the perspective of people who don’t.
Finally, for those still alleging that we’re going to blow up the mountain and scar it, a reminder that some people think golf courses are beautiful - especially when they are carefully designed championship golf courses built for organic management. The Agreement in Principle struck last September dramatically downsized the project, provided incentives that would convince us that downsizing could work, and set up another lengthy environmental review process. Among other things, it mandated very high environmental concern by guaranteeing that the resort will be built to meet at least Silver Level LEED certification standards of the US Green Building Council.
Our effort all along has been to balance environmental protection and economic development. If we hadn’t agreed, we would not have a document signed by the State, the City of New York, the Natural Resources Defense Council, New York Public Interest Research Group, Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, Riverkeeper, Theodore Gordon Fly-Fishers, Trout Unlimited and the Zen Environmental Studies Instit-ute, guaranteeing that this project will have been under review for at least a decade before it is built.