A new focus

April 10, 2008 11:00 pm

To the editor:

It is time for city and county government to recognize that the economic development "emperor has no clothes."

In the last 10 years, well in excess of a million dollars of public money and countless hours of volunteer time have been spent on inventing and reinventing "economic development" with little result. In that time our streets and infrastructure suffered an accelerating decline and the costs of repair has increased exponentially.

I suggest an entirely different approach. Let's get government out of the economic development business. Stop funding "economic development" staff positions, studies, consultants and end city staff distraction on the issue. City staff should focus entirely on infrastructure improvement with a major effort on grant writing, and they should be judged on tangible results.

We should increase funding to HBC and other private sector economic development groups with records of success. Through civic events, these organizations are a major draw of new people to Baker City. Groups should form to help other commercial areas in decline. We should spend lodging tax funds only on Chamber information services, event production and out of area advertising, as it was intended.

Baker City has no advantages as a manufacturing center. Our natural advantage is the beauty of our historic city and the pristine lifestyle the area offers. In drawing new residents seeking a quality lifestyle, we preserve it for all of us. Taking care of bad streets, other infrastructure needs and nuisance abatement will make the area more attractive to prospective residents. Infrastructure improvements will create good private sector jobs.

Commercial property owners and our outstanding realtors and merchants do "economic development" every day by seeking new customers and tenants for commercial and industrial properties. The skill and incentive to do so clearly lies with them.

Rather than a "42 point plan," I suggest a 3-point plan: 1) Stop spending public money, staff time and attention on "economic development," focus on essential services and grant-funded infrastructure improvements to be constructed by the private sector; 2) Enhance civic private sector efforts and out of area advertising; 3) Expect tangible infrastructure improvements from City government.

Pamela Van Duyn

Baker City