EDITORIAL: Loss of Malarkey a win for concerned citizens

Feb. 7—It's discouraging to see the community miss out on a $200 million manufacturing investment that would have created a couple hundred jobs.

But the project would have required a voluntary annexation into the city of Anderson, as well as rezoning of about 160 acres along Ind. 109 south of the Menards store. And residents of the area spoke loudly and clearly against the annexation based on their concerns about possible factory emissions, increased traffic and falling property values.

The concerned citizens took up a petition against the annexation, and this week the city announced that Malarkey Roofing, which had proposed an asphalt shingles plant for the location, had decided to look outside of Madison County.

It's discouraging in the sense that the community could use more jobs, and Anderson needs to expand its tax base.

But in the end, Mayor Tom Broderick was right when he pointed out that not every economic development opportunity is right for every city. In this case, Anderson didn't have another site suitable for Malarkey.

Three members of Anderson City Council had traveled with Greg Winkler, executive director of the Anderson Economic Development Department, to Oklahoma recently to visit a Malarkey plant there and assess whether a similar plant in Anderson would be a good neighbor.

While the delegation came back generally impressed by what they learned, the concerns of residents near the property were not allayed.

Some of the concern was based on Malarky Roofing's emissions violations at a plant in Oregon, where the company is headquartered.

In 2022, Malarkey agreed to pay a $1.45 million fine, imposed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, for emitting unsafe amounts of formaldehyde, a carcinogen, and incorrectly measuring the plant's emissions. According to an article in The Oregonian, Malarkey in 2009 had modified its emissions unit without notifying the environmental quality department.

Yes, it's difficult to see the loss of a manufacturer that would have contributed $30 million to the city's tax base over the next decade and would have had an overall annual economic impact of $50 million, according to Winkler.

But in some senses, how this played out is how government should work. The people spoke. Government — and the manufacturer, in this case — listened and changed course.