Another entrepreneur brought down by bad public finance

Cocoa Pods
Cocoa Pods, by sarahemcc via Flickr (cc)

This one was “Bernard Callebaut, Alberta’s most famous chocolatier,” who purchased land to build a new chocolate factory.  Those who understand land rent and the business cycle won’t be too surprised at what tells us happened next:

[Callebaut] insists that it was an ill-timed decision to buy a large plot of land near the Petro-Canada station on the TransCanada Highway just west of Highway 22 for $5 million, and his bank’s unwillingness to exercise patience, that really did him in. “The idea was we would sell 30 acres for development, and we would keep the back part, which is actually the less-expensive part,” Callebaut says. He planned to build a manufacturing and warehousing facility there, and he even held out hope that the project would serve as a tourist attraction. “People love to see chocolate factories,” he says.That never happened. Instead, the value of the land plummeted, and his bank decided to pull the plug.

Of course, under the current system of public finance he really had no choice. He needed land for his factory.  If he rents instead of buying he is hostage to the landowners.  Only if he really understood how the land cycle works, possibly he could have prospered.  But no, Bernard Callebaut is not a political economist,  he is a chocolatier.  But perhaps he might have benefited from a learning some of what we teach at the Henry George School.

Like most good stories, there’s more to it than that.  He not only lost his land and his company, he lost his name.  To his lawyer.  Read it here.