Economic Research Associates Make Sales Pitch to MCC Board

Guess I was wrong as to why Richard Starr and David Stone of Economic Research Associates came to the McHenry County College Board meeting.

Starr said he had been invited by MCC President Walt Packard.

Since ERA did the devastating analysis of Mark Houser’s Equity One’s feasibility study of the baseball stadium, I figured the board majority was going to ask for a re-do.

You know, something that would make it look like a baseball stadium could pay for itself.

But, no.

The presentation by Starr was more a sales pitch on how ERA could gather partners together and make the stadium work. Partners like the real estate industry, the hospitals, the county, a city, etc.

“You have a complicated situation here because you’re on your own,” Starr said.

Then he quoted one of the senior members of the firm:

”Whoever benefits pays.
“Whoever pays benefits.”

He said ERA tries to merge interests to see “how can all (the players) benefit.

“You have a great market and there should be a lot of people interested in making it a better place to live…We do market research.”

But Starr still wanted to include not just the hard financial benefits of the project, but the unquantifiable “quality of life” benefits.

“How can (a community) be more competitive?” he asked, pointing to “sports facilities” as something that could cause a community to stand out from its neighbors and cause “someone to move there.”

So, I’d have to conclude that Starr and associate David Stone were in salesman mode, not analyst mode.

They seemed to be pitching for the job that EquityOne got. McHenry County College has committed to paying Houser’s firm $470,000 and untold amounts to the two firms he selected—Cornerstone Architects and FCL Builders.

And, the firm of Economic Research Associates is probably a good deal more qualified for putting together something that would work than Equity One.

It’s founding principals created the “world’s biggest carnival” for Walt Disney and have planned all of the other Disney theme parks.

Just to give you an idea of what ERA might bring to the table, Starr suggested out in the hall to reporters that apartments could be built along the edges of the ball field. They would make great seats for the few nights a year when games were played and, if a nightclub were nearby, they would be attractive to young singles.

Starr echoed the enthusiasm Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley had for the townhouses in the Barton Stream subdivision annexed across Route 14 from MCC. Shepley thought they would appeal to students.

Starr just put a more interesting twist on it.

Maybe Huntley can incorporate that idea into its plan for a baseball stadium.

Or maybe Barton Stream’s developer will change his plan to include a baseball stadium.

I still think any stadium should be put in a mined out gravel pit.

ERA’s Stone did mention “3rd party analysis. We are good at making interesting things boring…The bottom line for us is generally the bottom line.”

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All the photos but the one on the bottom right are of Richard Starr of Economics Research Associates. On the bottom right is ERA’s David Stone.

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