How is a proposed oil pipeline like a cancer research center?
They both come with glowing predictions of bountiful jobs and economic development — predictions that may come from the very same people.
Consider the politically problematic Keystone XL pipeline. To its opponents, it’s an environmental disaster in the making. But to its supporters, it’s a stable petroleum supply that will stimulate the economy to create more than 250,000 jobs.
Then there is the University of Kansas’ cancer center. It’s vying for a prestigious designation by the National Cancer Institute. A team of NCI reviewers plans to visit KU Medical Center later this month.
Developing the major cancer research and treatment center that KU envisions could generate 9,400 jobs and $1.3 billion in economic activity. Yes, that’s billion, with a “b.”
Where did those numbers come from? From the same organization that produced the glowing predictions for the Keystone XL, The Perryman Group of Waco, Texas.
Economist M. Ray Perryman and his colleagues seem able to produce economic projections that meet the expectations of their sponsors. A report for the Texas Parks & Recreation Foundation found spending on local parks across the state was responsible for 25,323 jobs. Legal aid services provided a “sizable stimulus” and 3,171 jobs to the Texas economy, said a study for the Texas Access to Justice Commission.
Perryman’s pipeline numbers have come in for serious criticism, notably by a Cornell University study that suggested Keystone XL might even cost jobs.
Perryman’s KU calculations include the economic gains from expanding the cancer center, spinoff businesses from its research, even the benefit of reducing cancer deaths.
Neither the pipeline nor the cancer center report by Perryman provides details of its jobs projections. But The Washington Post recently dug up one of his studies from 2010 on the economic benefits of a wind power project in Texas that enumerates exactly what jobs would be created.
Included on the lengthy and somewhat baffling list: 51 dancers and choreographers, 138 dentists, 865 hairdressers, 136 manicurists, 186 shampooers, 510 bakers, 448 clergy and a whopping 1,714 bartenders. One remarkable prediction, considering the depressed state of the news business, was 898 new jobs for reporters.
If KU does get the federal designation, there is sure to be celebration in the medical community and among all who have given their time and money to improve the care of people affected by cancer.
And with the economic benefits we’ve been told to anticipate, reporters and bartenders all over Kansas City may raise a toast as well.