Jungle Jims You Oughta Know, You Bought It

Guest Column by Stuart Kennedy

In 2011, the Union Township Trustees approved the purchase of the former Biggs building for $7,500,000 (through the Union Township CIC) and leased it to Jungle Jims.  Union Township threw in an additional $1,000,000 at that time for building renovations to make the initial spend $8,500,000.

Concerned residents at the time were told there was little to no risk on the Township’s part because obviously Jungle Jim’s would be good for the rent money and after the approximately 8 year lease the taxpayers’ money would be back in the Union Township Treasury.

As a Township resident, you might find yourself asking:

  • If Jungle Jim’s was such a low financial risk why did they not just borrow the money from a commercial bank like most businesses and purchase the building on their own?
  • What expertise did our Trustees Timothy Donnellon, Matt Beamer and Robert McGee with their respective backgrounds in auto sales, personal financial planning, and as a court bailiff bring to the table that the professional business lenders at the commercial banks lacked?
  • What makes Union Township qualified to enter the commercial real estate business?
  • Why should the residents of Union Township be the ones to carry the financial risk of a commercial real estate loan?

The Union Township Trustees stated the $8,500,000 spend was required to bring jobs to Union Township.  We now know that was not true.  Menards home improvement stores made an offer to purchase the former Biggs building on their own with no financial assistance from local government.  Their store would have created jobs similar to Jungle Jim’s and Menards would have even contributed more in sales tax (per dollar of sales) to Clermont County since food items are not subject to sales tax.

  • We even know the Union Township Administrator had lunch with an executive of Menards prior to Union Township signing the purchase agreement on the Biggs building but yet “this was the only solution” to fill the vacant retail store location according to the Trustees.
  • So, instead of what would have been the only hardware store in Eastgate, due to local government intervention in the free market, we will now get an eighth food retailer (i.e. Sams, Gordon Foods, 2 Kroger stores, Walmart, Aldi, Meijer).
  • Never mind the fact that Remke Markets, a company extremely well qualified to make the call,  decided that the location warranted the closing of the former Biggs store.

The Tea Party believes in three basic principles:  Constitutional Limited Government, Fiscal Responsibility, and Free Markets.  This deal went against all three.

  • A limited government would not believe it even had jurisdiction to become involved in such a deal. The business of making commercial loans is not the intended purpose of the taxes we are forced to pay to our Township.
  • If there is so much money laying around that it demands this deal to achieve a higher “rate of return,” how about returning the money to the taxpayers?
  • A fiscally responsible Township would not be accepting the financial risk of a loan/lease to a retailer who possibly could not or chose not to obtain private funding on their own through traditional channels.
  • Had free markets been allowed to function properly, this vacant building would have been purchased by another retailer without any government assistance.
  • Finally, our existing local food suppliers and employers would not be facing a new competitor with the unfair advantage of government assistance and funding.

As the opening of Jungle Jim’s Eastgate draws near it appears as if the deal might have run a little short on money.  On August 15 the Union Township Trustees voted to loan Jungle Jim’s an additional $1,000,000 (that brings the total deal up to $9,500,000).  This cannot be explained away as a necessary incentive to attract a business to our area.

Jungle Jim’s is opening later this month in Eastgate regardless.  Trustee Robert McGee described the additional $1,000,000 loan as a “line of credit”.  I work with many retail business that have lines of credits to aid them with their merchandise purchases and other expenses.  The only difference is these lines of credit are with their business bankers, not local governments (i.e. taxpayers).

With a population of 46,416 every resident of Union Township is now Jungle Jim’s landlord with just under $205 per man, woman and child invested in this deal (i.e. $820 per family of four).  While it is too late to change course now, we can only hope the deal succeeds -  if for no other reason than the sake of the taxpayers whose money has been so brazenly and needlessly put at risk by an overreaching and interventionist local government.

21 Responses to Jungle Jims You Oughta Know, You Bought It

  1. Pingback: Jungle Jim’s Cutting Jobs | Union Township Precinct 'D'

  2. Nathan Schuler

    Stuart,

    You are right on with this article. I echo your sentiments.

  3. Stuart Kennedy

    My data is as thorough as my reasoning.

  4. Thanks for the info. That’s good to know. A little creepy you went to that extent, but still useful information.

  5. Stuart Kennedy

    Public records show you chose the Democratic ballot during the 2008 primary election.

    Party affiliation is designated by the primary ballot selected in a primary.

    If you have not participated in the election process during a primary for the last two years most summaries default you back to NP for no party.

  6. Rob, would you be as supportive of this $9,500,000 spend if it were YOUR tax dollars?

    Yes.

    You state you are not aligned with any political party but public voting records do show you as a registered Democrat.

    I honestly can’t recall the last time I specified a party affiliation but it may have been Democrat depending on the political climate at the time. I do not vote along party lines, choosing right or wrong over left or right.

    However, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, I have not specified a party affiliation since the last time I updated my registration information almost 9 1/2 years ago. Don’t take my word for it, the information is available for public consumption here.

    Your data appears to be just as thorough as your reasoning.

  7. Stuart Kennedy

    Rob – one more thought. You state you are not aligned with any political party but public voting records do show you as a registered Democrat. This helps me make a point. Our current Union Township Trustees’ policies are viewed favorably by local Democrats but are not viewed as favorably by local conservative Republicans such as myself. Discussions such as this help bring to light the Union Township Trustees’ actions are not consistent with conservative principles.

  8. Stuart Kennedy

    Rob, would you be as supportive of this $9,500,000 spend if it were YOUR tax dollars? Easy to support this if you are not a Union Township resident and it is not your money. Always easier for Progressives from any political party to spend other people’s money. As far as I am aware, other local townships such as Pierce have not begun writing checks out of their treasuries to attract (buy?) jobs. If you believe in this practice strongly perhaps you should attend a trustee meeting in your township and suggest they do the same. Maybe they’ll mimic Union Township, and actually spend more than they have and borrow a few million from the county to make ends meet. It is not Fiscal Responsibility if you need to borrow money to lend it back out.

  9. So, Rob, am I correct that you believe government spending money collected from the taxpayers to help selected PRIVATE businesses is OK as long as there are some apparent positive side effects?

    Yes.

    Where in the US Constitution is a government at any level given this authority?

    Where in the constitution does it state that a government doesn’t have the authority to make expenditures without voter approval? It doesn’t. This isn’t an issue of a government operating outside of it’s authoritative boundaries. It is a matter of the fiscal responsibility that you cite. As in… a government is obligated to make responsible, fiscal decisions that are in the best interest of the community and it’s constituents.

    What about the commercial lending officer at the local bank that did not make this sale/loan because the local government trumped his business with a better rate by dabbling in commercial real estate loans?

    You cite the current economic circumstances and then evoke sympathy for a lending institution?

    What about the possibility of our other local food stores having to reduce their employment levels [...]

    You expect the residents of Union Township to be concerned about the possibility that a retail giant like WalMart may be adversely affected by the success of a small business who has just opened it’s second location? WalMart’s strong arm tactics to drive down the prices of it’s suppliers are well documented and have had a devastating impact on the ability of small businesses to operate in this country, putting thousands of them out of business.

    Do you realize the irony and naivety in your statements? I would suggest you take your own advice and “read up”. I’m not aligned with any political party and I do not have a personal or professional interest in Jungle Jim’s or any of the local municipal governments. But I am a long time West Clermont resident enthusiastically embracing decisions that will foster economic growth in the community. In fact, given the track record of criminal activity and controversy surrounding former Union Township officials, I am naturally suspect of their judgement. But I do believe in giving credit where it’s due.

  10. Stuart Kennedy

    So, Rob, am I correct that you believe government spending money collected from the taxpayers to help selected PRIVATE businesses is OK as long as there are some apparent positive side effects? We are the ones on the hook when these loans sometimes go bad. You might want to read up on Solyndra… Oh yeah, that GM loan is also tracking like a great investment so far too.

    Where in the US Constitution is a government at any level given this authority? Government involvement, direction or ownership of business is the definition of SOCIALISM.

    What about the commercial lending officer at the local bank that did not make this sale/loan because the local government trumped his business with a better rate by dabbling in commercial real estate loans? What about the possibility of our other local food stores having to reduce their employment levels because there is now more local competition which benefits from a lower overhead for their building?

    Rob, glad you are reading the Clermont Tea Party website. I hope you are able to learn something along the way about Limited Government, Free Markets and Fiscal Responsibility.

    For all of the Liberals out there that prefer Socialism and all of the big spending RINO Republicans who think it is OK as long as the spending benefits their cronies – Delta Airlines has flight leaving each night for Europe. I hear Greece is nice this time of year. Possibly you can find a job there and earn a living. Oh, yeah, that’s right – things are not going too well there now. History shows Socialism does not work.

  11. I should also add that comparing Jungle Jim’s to Kroger, Meijer, et al, whilst arguing the need for another hardware store in the area doesn’t lend itself to improving your credibility. Jungle Jim’s has always positioned itself as a specialty food retailer and has even gotten national attention for being so.

  12. Apart from the 300 to 400 local jobs created, you are ignoring the incremental income benefits for many Eastgate-area businesses generated by the substantial amount of visitors that Jungle Jim’s will attract from outside the region. We have visited the Fairfield store several times a year for the past 15 years, often stopping to eat in the Fairfield area and visit nearby retailers.

    Why focus your concerns in the media on one of the most well known and beloved Cincinnati area businesses with a long track record of success? Jungle Jim’s is borrowing money from the township they have already begun to pay back. Do you realize the millions in tax abatements extended to companies in Clermont County and Union Township based on promises of job creation and long term revenue that were never realized? Wouldn’t that be a far more worthwhile use of your time and energy?

    Someone should also inform Stuart Kennedy there are two large, national chain hardware stores closer to his home in Union Township than the Jungle Jim’s location. There was also a third, smaller store opened by a national chain recently in Union Township that closed after a short time in business. Have you stopped to consider that perhaps the auto salesman, financial planner, and bailiff took that into account?

    It’s difficult to take The Tea Party seriously when these are the kind of misplaced issues you take to the media and choose to build your platform on top of.

  13. The local newspaper website had incorrectly reported that the county was involved in this additional $1,000,000 loan to Jungle Jims. They corrected the online article and printed the corrected article after the error in their article was brought to their attention. So no County Commissioner involvement and the Union Township Trustees have already executed the paperwork for this additional loan.

  14. Edward J Skelly

    I thought I read somewhere that the Tax District had to agree in order for the extra million dollars to be finalized by Union Township. I also thought I read somewhere that each of the Clermont County Commissioners was a member of the governing board of the approving tax district. If so, can anyone clarify how the three members from the Clermont County Commission voted?

  15. Stuart Kennedy

    As part of the deal, Jungle Jim’s did not pay any rent on the Bigg’s building for the first year of their lease during the build out. We are now into year 2 where their monthly rent is just under $75,000 per month (remember they get to keep the rental income from all of the sub-tenants on the entire property such as Hobby Lobby, movie theater, etc too).

    They have now made their first four payments. In year 2 of the contract their rent will be approximately $900,000 (12 x $75,000 per month). So the $1,000,000 they just added to the loan could be viewed as borrowing the money to pay right back to Union Township for the year 2 rent. Their monthly rental payments do not kick up an additional $5,000 per month to start the repayment of this latest $1,000,000 until year 3. One could argue that they are now living in the new building rent free for the first 2 years! All the while they are collecting and keeping the rental income from all other retail establishments sharing the building.

  16. I’m apalled at the “Boss Hogg” actions taken by Union Township trustees! It appears that the ‘trust’ part of trustee is no longer valid. Bring on the elections!

  17. Pingback: Informing Citizens | Kings Liberty

  18. Pingback: It’s a Jungle Right Here | Union Township Precinct 'D'

  19. Thank You for writing this article.A blatant overreach of the local Government picking winners and losers, I would have enjoyed Menards. As for the Govt.locals shame on YOU. Remember at election time.

  20. Another atrocity swept under the rug but for you guys.
    No fear…we’ll make this viral and keep it in the forefront so that this soft tyranny hits every single breathing taxpayer. (What’s left of us)
    And if they are still blind? Sadly those are the chosen “Scrapped” and never mattered to begin with. Ask Lenin, Stalin and Hitler.

  21. WHY IS THIS NOT ON THE LOCAL NEWS?
    WHY IS THIS NOT BEING REPORTED ON LOCAL BILLBOARDS?
    WHY IS THIS THE ONLY NEWS SOURCE ON THIS?

    because WE THE PEOPLE ARE NOT DOING OUR JOB!

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