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I was shocked and disappointed to read your editorial of last week about the PSCDC. You were like a bystander at a fight, which, as soon as someone is knocked down, piles on.
Let’s review Archuleta County’s economic situation briefly. We have one of the highest “not employed” rates in the state at nearly 20 percent. We have some of the lowest wages in the state. Lots of businesses have been barely hanging on — many have relied on credit cards to get them by, with interest rates up to 20 percent. Archuleta County is also an officially-designated “Enhanced Enterprise Zone” which means our community is 20 percent worse off than the national average from a poverty-level perspective.
Our community is economically distressed and needs help.
For 20-plus years, our local governments have thrown considerable money at “economic development” with little to show for it except suburban sprawl and a real estate and construction industry that, during the recession, left us with rampant unemployment and about 40 percent of our county houses vacant. So many of our neighbors had a hard time getting by.
It is obvious that our economy needs to be more diverse and not so dependent on cyclical industry.
As Albert Einstein said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
In June, a group of unpaid volunteers who love their community so much that they wanted to help and had the skills to help joined the PSCDC board. We truly believed there was a more effective approach to improving our local economy.
We chose to focus first on our small businesses here at home. As a result of that and Rich Lindblad’s work with 97 clients in Archuleta County, 107 jobs were created/retained (as measured by the state-level SBDC) and two new businesses were started. Incredibly, his results in jobs created/retained achieved 89 percent of the goal for the entire southwest SBDC region. He has been recognized by Region 9, the SBDC and the president of Ft. Lewis College, while remaining unrecognized by our local officials.
This group of passionate, committed PSCDC volunteers and Rich had accomplished more “economic development” in a year than in all the previous 20 years.
We at the PSCDC could have done what so many have done: avoid the political risk and the risk of public failure and done good works elsewhere. I’m glad so many do. Our community is enriched by their work and their passion.
But not many would dare try to really make a difference in our local economy. I’m very proud that we accepted the challenge, made the commitment and took the risk.
Who benefits from economic development if it is done well? People who need jobs, people who own businesses, those with properties that businesses rent and all of the trickle-down effects from spending of employee paychecks on houses, groceries, restaurants, entertainment and, yes, newspapers.
Oh, and local governments who increase their tax revenue from sales and property taxes. We are all stakeholders in the PSCDC’s success.
Instead of piling on, cheer us on! Imagine a brighter future.