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In a recent letter to the editor, I defined economic development as “efforts that seek to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for a community.”
I then posed a question: “Does our community need economic and community development?” I wrote about various measures of our community’s health and found that we really do need it.
But we don’t have to accept the status quo just because it has always been so. Change is scary for some, but we can be so much healthier and vibrant as a community. We have the power to improve ourselves.
We have a number of community organizations working on improvements in individual aspects: childcare, education, poverty, hunger, promoting tourism and local business, workforce training, healthcare, senior services, job creation, new business attraction, etc. But each of these efforts is pursued separately as if they are unrelated to one another. This can lead to groups inadvertently “pulling on opposite ends of the same rope” or even just missing opportunities for synergistic progress.
I believe that none of these challenges stand alone.
For example, a healthy community will have good childcare so the parents can work and prepare the kids for more formal education.
A healthy community provides a good education for our kids that includes some training in new career skills like technology, science and math, etc. and educating them on potential careers to work toward. By knowing their interests and talents, what careers are available and how they need to prepare for those careers, our young people can chart a path to a rewarding future.
Workforce training is also needed to ready young people and others seeking to improve their career opportunities.
Employers — local and prospective new ones — look for skilled workers as well as good education for their kids and affordable housing. More employers mean more jobs to keep our young people here, enriching our community.
More jobs mean less poverty and hunger and better social services.
More jobs and more employers lead to more tax revenue for local governments to improve services, roads and other infrastructure which appeals to both current and new residents and businesses.
Better healthcare means seniors can stay in our community longer and spend retirement savings here to be circulated in our local economy through in-community purchases which create local jobs.
These same healthcare services are also bringing in lots of young families for good jobs in our community. Their children will ensure longevity and vitality for our local community and economy.
Economic and community development starts with an honest community conversation about how we can work collectively to create better conditions for economic growth, employment generation and community improvement. What is holding us back?