Friday, July 24, 2009

Stay focused

There's a tug of war going on for funding economic development in the Wood River Valley.

Sustain Blaine, a volunteer economic development group, recently released the study recommendations of its consultants on economic development just in time to ask local governments to budget creation of a new countywide development corporation—or something similar—whose job it would be to realize goals in the plan.

The goals include development of a local Internet portal, recruitment of new businesses, and creation of an educational design institute. They are laudable but not an instant cure-all for the ailing local economy.

Sustain Blaine's funding requests are posing a dilemma.

Pressured by recession-pinched revenues, the governments would have to cut costs significantly in other areas in order to fund a new organization.

Given that the major economic development activity backed by the cities is tourism marketing, cuts would be counterproductive. A landmark study that followed a recession in the 1980s found that businesses that cut marketing during a recession fared far worse when recovery arrived than those who didn't.

Local governments should help recruit new businesses and develop new educational institutes with a coalition of existing administrators and elected officials. Not by scrimping on marketing and redirecting resources to uncertain economic endeavors.

The valley needs to stay focused on its core tourism business or risk doing it harm.

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