Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, July 27, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Gordon Forgey, the publisher of the Whitman County Gazette,gets it.

In an editorial in today's Gazette, he states that growth and development comes from the private sector, not from the government or the public. The government and the public can help and support growth and development, but they cannot generate it. That takes people like Ed Schweitzer, who are willing to risk their own money. That is the point I tried to make in my response to Janet Damm. No amount of "We'd like a Costco better because they pay a living wage" or "We wouldn't fight a moderately-sized Target" will actually bring those stores to Pullman. It's all about economics, not personal ideology, personal wishes, overblown rhetoric, public hearings, petitions, or vocal "grassroots" groups.
Economic development: It all comes down to the private sector

Public money is being spent to help find and create new economic opportunities in the county. A number of publically funded efforts are under way.

Sadly, the prospects of these efforts are not good.

The county Area Development Organization is trying to get people to move back who once lived here. This is a dramatic lowering of sights from previous efforts to bring in new businesses and to actively support new projects. This was reported last week in the Gazette In the same issue, a business recruitment expert working with the port of Whitman said manufacturing prospects which might move onto the Palouse are few and far between. Outside pressures as well as limitations in this area make bringing in new business less than likely, those in charge of the efforts say.

About the only publicly funded successes have come from the development of the industrial park in Pullman. The park has proven a boon to county development and employment and has created pressure for new housing and new attitudes. Public seed money, such as the 0.08 tax grants, has been successful in generating town projects around the county.

As important as they are, they are not enough. It is an old story, but growth in the area and economic stability again come down to private enterprise and private risk taking. Public agencies, of course, have a role to play in the successful development of new projects, but ultimately their role is one of assistance rather than initiation.

The county, for instance, has played an important, active role in the gradual progress of a retail complex in the Pullman/Moscow corridor which may see fruition when all the hurdles are overcome, including opposition from the city of Moscow. The city of Colfax has played an integral role in helping to make possible a rural housing development and has taken the bold step of annexing a large tract of land to its north in order to help the development.

Still, these are private endeavors that need to go through public hoops. They are neither generated nor even solicited by public agencies. Enlightened public agencies can make such private plans achievable, but they do not often and, apparently, cannot generate them.

Private investment, in large part, is where communities should look to for new opportunities. Private investment does not happen magically. A community or an area, one even as large as Whitman County, can send out messages for this investment. One of the loudest and most important messages is that private investment will be supported by the general public. That support is most effectively communicated by a willingness and eagerness to support local businesses.
"A community or an area, one even as large as Whitman County, can send out messages for this investment. One of the loudest and most important messages is that private investment will be supported by the general public." That is why Business & Residents for Economic Opportunity (BREO) was formed, to get the message out that Pullman and Whitman County welcome private investment. Unfortunately, PARD continues to do tremendous harm to our desired image as a business-friendly location. Remember Ed Schweitzer's reaction to the "citizens against virtually everything"? No one loves Pullman more than Ed Schweitzer. How do you think outside investors view PARD's antics?

To borrow from Al "I Invented the Internet" Gore, Pullman and Whitman County have to face an inconvenient truth. As much as we love living here, to many outside business people looking to locate here, we dont' have a whole lot going for us.

The business recruitment expert referred to in the editorial above cited high housing costs and limited vocational training for trade skills as major obstacles to attracting manufacturing businesses to the Palouse. The higher housing costs are more manageable for software or high-tech workers, he stated, but that has challenges as well because technology professionals tend to be more affluent and have more options for where they want to live. In other words, why would these affluent professionals want to live in Pullman with housing prices higher than in Spokane but with considerably fewer entertainment, cultural and shopping amenities? I personally know of many professionals who have passed on moving here for just such reasons. I'm sure you do too.

The expert was probably too polite to mention our distance from an interstate highway and a major airport as other major factors,along with a high cost of living associated with limited retail choices, and an unholy alliance of left-wing academics and "I-Don't-Want-Anyhting-To-Ever-Change" good ol' boys preventing growth.

If PARD truly cared about this community, they would put their ideology aside and welcome Wal-Mart to Pullman. Any business wanting to locate here should have the red carpet rolled out for it. As I have said before, we are fighting for our future. Will we succumb to our disadvantages and decline or overcome the obstacles and succeed? You choose the side you want to be on. There is no neutral position.

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1 comment:

Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

Government does not support this kind of growth. History tells us that in the past any attempts to do so has been dumped early in the planning stages. The private sector must be the developers.