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Get off the government dole

An article in this week’s SUN notes the fact there are community members who question the effectiveness and mission of the Community Development Corporation, as well as the wisdom of including government representatives on the corporation board of directors.

We find an element of bitterness and a bit of rancor in some of the complaints, but we also agree that, at a certain point, government should be gone from the board, and we agree with the contention the CDC has yet to fulfill the role traditionally cut out for such an organization.

Town and county representatives on the board of directors make a valid point when they note that the extreme level of financial support from each entity requires oversight. The two governmental entities spend tax dollars to provide the overwhelming share of funding for the CDC.

The first task of the organization should be to rid itself of this dependency. We say, if the CDC is not self-supporting by the end of this year, it should cease to exist. It is, after all, a corporation that can receive grant funds and solicit and accept investment from private sources.

The fact it has yet to do so, and that criticism of some of the roles the organization has thus far assumed is legitimate, reflects on the lack of concrete planning and clear goals noted by local resident Bob Scott. This falls squarely in the laps of board members and of the executive directors the organization has had thus far.

We are told a significant amount of time is being spent working with local businesses to forestall negative effects of the arrival of a Wal-Mart in Pagosa. We understand the alarm; we agree there is a need to assist small businesses that do not have the business plans or the flexibility to deal with market challenges. We also note there are ample resources available in the region for business counseling, much of it as close as a phone call to offices based at Fort Lewis College. Assisting these businesses is not a matter of development, but of preservation. The CDC must turn to the task of bringing new business here and of developing new business here. The organization must also consider the task of acquiring and developing real estate for business use and of being able to make loans to new businesses.

It requires money.

Not taxpayer money from the town and county.

Until such time the CDC is able to free itself from the local government teat, we see government representation on the board continuing. But, with it or without it, this organization needs tighter plans, clearer projects and inroads to funding from other sources.

Some businesses are not in trouble and we are cheered this week to hear that one “local business” — Wolf Creek Ski Area — is ready to put expansion plans on display in order to solicit public comment.

While Wolf Creek Ski Area sits in another county, its owners and the majority of its employees are Pagosans. Pagosa Country provides the ski area with the lion’s share of its resident visitors and the majority of the area’s tourist trade chooses to bed down in Pagosa. The ski area is an important part of the winter economy in Pagosa Country and the proposed improvements at the area can only enhance the relationship.

We congratulate the Pitchers and their staff on their long-term planning — something a number of local organizations could learn from. We also congratulate them on their desire to receive feedback from a public that considers the area its “back yard” and that values this best-kept secret in the ski industry, offering its patrons the most snow and the best powder around.

Karl Isberg

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