Soon every candidate for local office will be asked about their goals, if elected. Each candidate will likely respond as we want them to respond and they will say local jobs will be a priority. There is not a lot of room in the local newspaper to expand on that thought so I thought I would give it a try in this format.
Economic Development is a team sport. In our community, we have a public/private partnership that has formed the Paducah Economic Development Agency (PED). The city government and the county government each contribute about $250,000.00 to the partnership. The agency has a 20+ member board of directors and three staff. By design, some of what PED does is confidential (for a season of time).
Obviously the city and county commissioners must work in the confines of this partnership but as a group the local government boards can add a certain level of transparency to the successes and failures of the public/private partnership. The public can benefit from the knowledge gained from questions that can be asked during the request for the public funding. For the past 27 years in my legal practice, I have asked questions for a living. I won’t be ridiculous but neither will I be shy.
While McCracken County benefits from the added democracy of two local governments (i.e. the county government and the city government), the community can suffer dire consequences if the separate local governments do not work together in the area of economic development. The reality of a city’s annexation power to enlarge its tax base equals the power to reduce the county’s revenue stream. The Kentucky statutes regarding city annexation do not anticipate this quagmire. (I’ve always wanted to use that word). It is important to elect commissioners with the time and “skill set” to collaborate on a city/county policy which will clearly and mathematically encourage both governments to pursue economic development. The citizens and businesses of McCracken County and Paducah deserve such a policy.
A big part of the long term economic plan that falls directly on the shoulders of our local government is “community development.” Lots of communities are focused on improving the quality of their respective communities so it is important to keep pace and wisely invest in the right type of “community development” projects. The goal is to work within a budget to create a community which draws the attention of the following:
- People looking to locate a “start up” company;
- Existing companies looking to expand;
- People looking to retire from the military or private sector;
- Our children and their children; and
- The list goes on.
Past local leaders have created a great community in western Kentucky. Their past “community development” projects have built a community that already draws attention for its unique culture, low cost of living and nearly zero transportation headaches. Our community is the regional capital for medical services, shopping and entertainment. Economic development within the medical services sector of our community is arguably booming for a community of our size.
However “community development” is like the laundry. It is not something a community can ever stop doing without suffering a smelly consequence. In short, I believe our local government should be always thinking and looking for ways to make sure our community will be in a position to compete for both jobs and population in both the short term and long term future. Creating and expanding our “cool place to live” factor is not just a way to improve our quality of life, it is in fact “long term economic development.”
Consequently, I believe it very important to keep a forward thinking enthusiastic mindset in our local government. I would like to be part of that team. During this local election season, please feel free to “kick the tires,” so to speak. Ask me questions and feel free to share your insight and knowledge. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about economic development in our community.