What should they do? Who should pay?
Attention, and a variety of opinion, well-formed and otherwise, is being directed to the topic of economic development in Pagosa Country and to the Community Development corporation in particular. Much of the comment has dealt with alleged conflicts of interest involving the CDC’s director and his wife, but deeper issues concerning the CDC and economic development should be considered.
In line with the first question asked above,: Is economic development of the kind that occurs in areas with major transportation routes feasible here? Have we expended energy and funds all these years (remember the AEDA?) on a task that will rearely be successful? Is Pagosa Country the kind of place in terms of location, resources, transportation, that can accommodate relocation of significant industry?
The questions any owner of a light industry should ask: Proximity to an interstate? Proximity to rail lines? Locally available materials, resources? Maximized broadband? Educated, trained work force? Airport capacity?
Answer the questions yourself; determine if you, the hypothetical industry owner, are ready to pack up and move.
Chances are slim.
The reality: tourism is our business and, in the past, real estate and construction took a huge role. Other industries naturally suited to the area are those like the ongoing biomass energy project — one that utilizes available resources, taps into an existing grid, and owes nothing to the efforts of local economic development organizations.
We will continue to attract tourist-related businesses and, with luck and little effort, a certain number of small businesses and industries whose owners will be lured here by the quality of life and the surroundings.
So, what should the CDC do?
To date, the CDC’s accomplishments are listed as support for a Golden Retriever convention and a songwriter’s symposium. This is opportunism — grabbing whatever is nearby to justify the agency’s existence. These are tourism events, rightfully handled by the TTC or the Chamber of Commerce. The fact these are taken on as projects by the CDC supports the notion that real economic development here is difficult.
The CDC needs to work on convincing businesses and industry to relocate here — quietly, doggedly, discreetly, hooting only when successful.
The second question concerns public money invested in the corporation. The CDC is a non-profit corporation, allowed to raise funds via investment and grants. It is intended to be self-supporting. Both town and county have invested heavily in the CDC — the town, for example, allotted $50,000 in the budget for the CDC with another $9,000 given to a grant writer position. The county is in lockstep.
We will not argue against a self-supporting nonprofit, but we see the CDC’s activity unworthy of public funds. The money is best spent elsewhere.
In reality, our public entities set the stage for economic development.
The town, county, water and sanitation district, school district, health service district, fire protection district, et al, create an environment conducive to stable growth — one in which a CDC could operate with some success. These entities are charged with maintaining and creating infrastructure, with providing roads, streets, sidewalks, clean water, sewage treatment, parks, recreation, health services, law enforcement, fire protection, education, connectivity. These entities make economic growth possible.
Should we have a nonprofit organization seeking businesses and light industry to relocate here?
Should that venture be funded with public money?
Local government should spend every penny possible creating the fertile ground in which business can take root and grow. Karl Isberg