When government spending makes sense

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO |  Grapes & Greens will yield tangible results in terms of jobs, which will allow other businesses to grow.

Grapes & Greens on Sound Avenue in Calverton has all the components of a good and wise public investment in private enterprise.

Here’s why. Unlike so many other government-funded initiatives, the shared storage and processing plant for locally grown produce and wine will yield tangible results in terms of jobs — and not just those at the facility itself. This project allows other businesses to grow, something especially important for the agricultural industry so central to the North Fork’s way of life.

Jim Waters of Waters Crest Winery told this newspaper that smaller winery owners have known for years that a shared facility would be needed to help grow the industry. Without one, individual winery owners would have had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each on storage space in order to expand.

It’s hard to imagine the building of such a facility would ever have been possible without public money. Like a lighthouse it offers a public benefit that couldn’t be achieved without government involvement. (This is why our local growers are so fortunate to have a strong advocacy group in the Long Island Farm Bureau, which secured a $500,000 state grant for the project.)

Perhaps what’s most promising for the project is that the right people are on board. The state and local farmers have partnered with an established Long Island-based company in J. Kings Food Service Professionals. This is not some fly-by-night startup or national conglomerate either. Owner John King has an interest in seeing this project succeed that goes beyond turning a profit. This is his home, too. As Joe Gergela of the farm bureau often says, the best way to preserve farmland is to help make farms profitable. And this project helps, especially as the small farms that dot the North Fork brace themselves for daunting new federal regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

It also helps that Grapes & Greens set up shop in an existing vacant warehouse rather than clearing more trees to build.

Of course, the facility has yet to be fully operational, so the jury is still out on whether Grapes & Greens will prove to be the huge success so many are expecting. Either way, this project is a shining example of how public investment should work. Unlike so much government spending <\h>— be it in the form of grants, tax incentives or (once upon a time) legislative member items — this makes perfect sense to the average person and doesn’t appear to be about chasing unrealistic ideals or simply spreading money around to help keep politicians in office.