Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, May 15, 2006


From Investopedia:

Return On Investment - ROI

A performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. To calculate ROI, the benefit (return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment; the result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio.

Return on investment is a very popular metric because of its versatility and simplicity. That is, if an investment does not have a positive ROI, or if there are other opportunities with a higher ROI, then the investment should be not be undertaken.
According to last Thursday's issue of the Whitman County Gazette, some folks around here don't seem to understand the concept of ROI.

For example, a letter to the editor stated:
I see the County Commissioners are reducing development funds to other places in the County so they can pour more money into their pet project, the Moscow-Pullman corridor. In other words, business as usual.

For decades now I've heard commissioner after commissioner insist that promoting growth within the eight miles between Moscow and Pullman is the key to Whitman County's future; and enormous amounts of time, money, and effort have been spent trying to make it so.

Even so, last time I looked, I didn't see too much activity going on there. What I do see, everywhere else in the county, are lots of empty storefronts and closed businesses. And I can't help but wonder, had Commissioners past and current put even a fraction as much effort into development everywhere in the County as they have into the corridor, if that might be different. Perhaps what we need really are COUNTY Commissioners, not CORRIDOR Commissioners.
Gazette publisher Gordon Forgey editorialized:

Yet no matter how important the corridor development can be for the county at large, it will never be the heart of the county. That distinction belongs to the small towns and cities in the county.

Development and economic growth in one place cannot substitute for economic growth in all places.

All effort should be made to see that corridor development is encouraged. At the same time, the separate needs of small rural communities need to be addressed and supported. They cannot be forsaken for more dramatic stuff anymore than they should limit growth elsewhere.

Just as corridor development needs balance to protect and improve the area, the allocation of limited economic development resources also needs balance.
I'm sorry, but I don't buy that. When you have a limited amount of money to invest, you put it where you will get the maximum "bang for the buck." You don't spread it around for the sake of "balance." Corridor development is no longer a pipe dream. It's coming. The plans are in the works, and it's going to take a lot of investment in infrastructure, such as water, sewage, police and fire. Work on SR 270 has already begun. I'm sorry, but drilling a well for the Tekoa golf course is not going to have as big of an ROI as a 700,000 sq. ft. shopping center that will bring in TENS OF MILLIONS of dollars in sales and property tax revenues over the years to come. Then there will be plenty of money available for medical clinics and other projects.

Yes, the corridor may not be the geographical center of Whitman County, but it lies in the middle of two growing cities with a combined population of nearly 50,000. Economic development has to be done where the people are. Let's face it, most of the small towns in Whitman County are never going to grow. The agricultural economy that created them is now long gone. We have to be realistic.

It's becoming clearer to me all the time now what has held Whitman County and Pullman back all these years. It's these kinds of petty regional jealousies, big town versus little town, and unrealistic hopes. It's also crass selfishness, as demonstrated by the people in Pullman who don't want strange old people blocking their view of the moose grazing.

Something's got to give around here soon.


April E. Coggins said...

You are starting to get the picture. I have heard comments about the Hawkins development such as, "Why do we need a Boise developer, why can't we work with a local developer?" Geeze Louise. Instead of welcoming who ever wants to come in, certain people believe we need to play "work up" in order to be considered a local.

I actually don't believe that any Whitman county towns need to disappear. I see the corridor development as an investment to secure the future of the small towns. I see possibilities of companies like Schwietzer being able to expand into small towns once we can provide viable infrastrature. We (Whitman County) need to provide roads, water, sewer, schools, parks, etc. to the smaller towns. The need for mixed zoning is perfect for our smaller towns. Whitman county needs to think of itself as a team, not as adversaries.
The story about Palouse in last weeks Gazette is a good example. The city of Palouse is hoping Pullman will be hampered by the rural residential zoning. That is wrong thinking. Palouse should be chearing Pullman growth, they should be planning with the Whitman County commissioners, they should be working with Pullman, and they should be wooing Ed Schweitzer about developing a new plant in Palouse. Palouse and Colfax have a lot that Ed Schweitzer is looking for.
We all need to think about developing our region, which will be healthy for all.

Scotty said...

Also one thing not pointed out in either of those letters is that the County Commissioners are working on COUNTY land. The cities that are having store fronts dry up need to look to their CITY council...