Making companies say, ‘I do’

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Lots of Indiana towns will do almost anything to get a factory or warehouse. That often means skipping pointed questions about corporate citizenship for fear of losing the project.

A Lebanon city council member isn’t looking the other way, though.

Dick Robertson is pressing a New Jersey company to support the community before voting for local incentives the company wants in order to build a $23.5 million refrigerated warehouse in Lebanon Business Park.

Robertson wants verbal assurances from U.S. Cold Storage Inc. that it will back things like Little League and the Fourth of July parade. More companies used to put their names on activities that make communities better places, he says, and they should do it again.

Without mentioning names, Robertson says some companies entering Lebanon in recent years haven’t risen to a high standard of corporate citizenship.

When Cold Storage Vice President Diane Sawyer was grilled on the point at a council meeting this week, she gushed about Lebanon’s quality of life and the company’s green credentials and intent to hire locally. The company also will support city police and fire protection, she said.

But she stopped short of promising more.

Robertson doesn’t want to force Cold Storage or any other company to put its intentions in writing. However, he does want at least a verbal commitment to invest more than the bare minimum in the community.

Lebanon’s council must vote twice to approve an incentive package, and the first vote is expected Monday.

If you were Robertson, how would you vote?

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