Any collaborative efforts we make to improve the local economy ultimately must work toward the same objectives. Indeed, despite numerous economic development efforts by the city, county, harbor, rancherias and local organizations, the objectives and goals don't always line up, leaving us with repetitive programs and sometimes even those working at cross-purposes.
Broadly speaking, the single objective of all local government agencies and civic organizations must be to improve the quality of life for all residents of our community. Economic development is just one element of that broad picture. Often, success in economic development allows us to solve other problems. We cannot hire police to fight meth, after all, if there is no tax base because residents are too impoverished.
Considering the state of our local economy, local governments and civic organizations should adopt three specific development objectives:
?Increase the number of jobs available in the county, especially family-wage jobs - A full 1 in 13 county residents who want to work can not find jobs. The average per capita income is a mere $20,534, meaning many who are working barely can afford to make ends meet.
?Increase shopping and entertainment options - Too often, Del Norte County residents leave for Eureka, Brookings or Medford, Ore., to shop and dine. Tourists in turn complain there aren't many things to do here. The result is sales tax dollars leaving our county and discouraged travelers who probably won't return.
?Increase the profitability of existing businesses - When local businesses are earning more, they can pay higher wages and employ more residents. The tax base also improves, meaning better police protection and roads. In any case, an economic resurgence shouldn't come at the expense of existing, profitable businesses.
There's little disagreement over these objectives. Indeed, all of us have heard them espoused in various ways by candidates for political office over the years.
The problem is we really have no overarching vision among local governments, businesses and civic groups that state these are our specific objectives. Because of this, there is little sense of direction in the multiple efforts to develop our economy. That makes those programs, which face challenges enough to garner success, even less effective.
We call upon each of our governing bodies and local economic organizations particularly the Crescent City Council, the Del Norte County Board, the Harbor Commission, the Del Norte-Crescent City Chamber of Commerce, the Klamath Chamber of Commerce, the local rancherias and reservations to formally commit themselves to these three economic development objectives. An official resolution and personal declarations by each elected official would be in order. In fact, we'd be happy to print those resolutions and statements on this page.
Of course, obtaining any objective is not simply a matter of stating it. A strategy is needed. Further, reaching an objective is where collaboration among governments and civic organizations is vital. In the days and weeks ahead, this editorial series will outline how we might develop a collaborative strategy for achieving these three broad objectives.
For the moment, though, it's significant that all agree that the three above objectives are what we as a community wish to achieve. We cannot begin to develop a viable, collaborative strategy for economic growth, after all, until all stakeholders agree on what we mutually want to accomplish.