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We sowed seeds of his departure

The departure of Kim Schmidt from the Tri-Agency Development Corporation leaves a big hole in efforts to grow Del Norte County businesses. Thanks to Schmidt's guidance and efforts, the tri-agency and accompanying Council of Economic Advisors have helped the community take key steps in laying the foundation for growth, primarily by focusing multiple government bodies on improving our infrastructure. That was a significant achievement, for we can't grow until there are more wastewater hookups for homes and businesses, better roads so larger trucks and RVs can get to and out of here and stronger broadband connections for telecommunications.

Indeed, these past two years Schmidt played a vital role in getting infrastructure improvements, most notably and recently working with a consulting firm to ensure Charter Communications links the county to an expanded fiber optics network coming to Curry County. This spring, city, county, business and civic leaders finally came together to begin developing a unified vision of where we want to take the community. With such success, we can't risk losing momentum.

Unfortunately, our community's own overcautiousness and self-doubts about economic growth could play a major role in losing that momentum.

When deciding to leave, Schmidt obviously considered a number of factors, from the responsibilities he'll have in his new job to the quality of the new school district that his child will attend. And among those variables also must be the uncertainty of his position here. Continued funding of his office from the tri-agency's three partners – the city, the county and the harbor – remains in question. No one can fault a person of Schmidt's talent for leaving when he doesn't know if he'll even have a job in a few months.

We certainly don't advocate that the city, county and harbor write a blank check for the tri-agency and its efforts. But the three bodies must be committed to funding a position and office that will coordinate economic development efforts among them and with other parties. Lacking that, we return to working at cross-purposes and achieving less for our dollars than we could by pooling our efforts.

That political commitment needs to come now and in a loud, clear voice. It will be the right signal that despite the change in tri-agency leadership that all parties want our newfound momentum to continue – and that whoever replaces Schmidt has their support.

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