Pro-tip: always be cautious around products that eschew the proper spelling of “light” for “lite.” Before this week, I would have advanced beers of that name as Cautionary Tale “A” for that principle.
But, now, we have a new poster child: Litebox. This story makes one wonder if the Indiana Economic Development Commission is always so sloppy with its financial incentives or only when there is a rush to get in front of cameras. According to the Indy Star, the incentives offered to Litebox are:
$10 million in state economic incentives and [eligibility] for local tax abatements potentially worth nearly $1 million over 10 years.
Ostensibly, the company would “renovate a local office building and construct a $20 million factory where . . . startup company, Litebox Inc., would make mobile video screens.” But, the owner of Litebox looks a bit like a grifter; indebted to state and local government to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars and to at least one business partner to the tune of $145,000. Public information about his educational background looks to be false.
On Wednesday, Yanagihara first told The Star that his financial backers were “well-heeled” individuals whom he wouldn’t name. Then he said: “Actually, it’s just me.”
Besides Yangihara’s bona fides, the article also calls into question the underlying business plan.
The $20 million that Yanagihara plans to spend to build an assembly factory for truck-mounted media screens in Indianapolis is enough money, Isenberg said, “to buy all of the competitors in the industry.”
Apparently, the product in question just isn’t that labor intensive. This would tie-in nicely with problems the Indiana Economic Development Corporation seems to have with granting incentives to “job creators” that over-promise jobs. The IEDC looks a lot like a political arm of the Governor’s office; an image not helped when Mitch Roob went to work there after screwing up big at FSSA. This episode looks like a campaign event for Mayor Ballard’s re-election efforts that has gone horribly awry.