Just as Hobby Lobby is about to open their first store in Western Mass, the company’s billionaire owners can’t find anyone to accept their generous gift of an entire 600-acre campus in Northfield.
News came today that Grand Canyon University of Phoenix is dissolving the deal to open a Christian college with up to 5000 students. And they have the citizens of Northfield to thank for this development.
But I can’t blame them. President Brian Mueller made his first mistake when he called the small town ‘The city of Northfield,’ and probably was overreaching when they asked the town to help pay for $30 million in sewer and road expenses. I suspect that would be at least three times the tiny town’s entire yearly budget!
Grand Canyon was prepared to invest $150 million, but expected a little help, since all over the country, municipalities are coming up with tax breaks and other assistance to attract the jobs and income that would come from a big college nearby. Not Northfield.
In the Masslive story, there was a veiled threat to these hardy citizens to the north. “If there is another outcry it will scare away another religious college,” said a GCU administrator.
I don’t think that Hobby Lobby really gets it, and it was clear when another prospective buyer commented on the lack of any big Christian concerts at the school over the years. They didn’t have them because few people would really want to go, get it?
New Englanders don’t warm up to Baptists, or fundamentalist Christians, and even if it means a lot of jobs and development, it’s going to be damn hard to change that fact.