Thursday, January 12, 2006

Manifest Destiny

As I sort of predicted yesterday, the recently hired employees of Destiny USA got the axe today. While this is certainly bad news for the 190 people who lost their jobs, their hiring back in August was such a bald-faced publicity stunt that I can't say I am at all surprised. The whole thing was scripted to play into the hopes and fears of the average resident of a dying rust belt city. Local developer goes out and hires 200+ locals, many of whom have no post-high school education and gives them high-paying jobs ($60K/year) where they get to do exciting work. Destiny launched an all-out PR blitz after hiring these people, featuring testimonials from the new employees in television and radio ads whose common theme was: thanks to Destiny, I don't have to leave my family and friends behind to go find gainful employment elsewhere. This is a huge issue in Syracuse, and I'm sure the commercials were designed to milk it for all its worth.

If you haven't already guessed, I don't think that Destiny is the solution to Syracuse's problems. For that matter, I don't think that it's ever going to get built. The one good thing that came out of today's announcement is that it shows Syracuse how the 21st century job market works. A bunch of people in Silicon Valley or New York or any other place where high-skill employees cluster probably lost their high-paying, exciting jobs yesterday too. Most of these people are probably not too worried. If they were working for a company that, like Destiny USA, hired too many people they didn't need and paid them more than they could afford, they may have to take a pay cut at their next job and might have to do more actual work than they were doing before. Ultimately, most of these people will find new work that engages them creatively and allows them to maintain or increase their standard of living. I don't think that this will be the case for all of the former Destiny employees, but hopefully, they will get back on their feet quickly and be a little more skeptical of anyone else who offers them gobs of money to do a poorly defined job with little connection to a viable business model.


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