Nationally the mood is dour on spending any amount for any reason. Locally, however, there are projects/plans that are needed, even if they require government spending.
With any project, the success lies in the application. Do a good job, and you’ll reap benefits. Squander money, and you’ll have irate citizens.
Here are some areas where a well-planned project should be considered:
• The courthouse – The forthcoming renovation is being funded by sales tax revenue that is already being collected. Work is moving ahead. Now that the ball is rolling, we say proceed double-time. The case is solid on the need for a new/renovated courthouse. We must have one, and what better time to start an $11 million to $14 million project than when there are scores of construction employees needing work? We strongly urge the county to alter bid procedures to keep this work as local as possible.
• The parks – same story as the courthouse. There should numerous landscapers who could round up crews to address some of the shortfalls on fields at Roper Park. Again, this is something that has to be done at some point.
An additional benefit with the parks is their potential to draw tourism dollars into local cash registers. Many communities lacking natural resources (like rivers and lakes and state parks) focus their economic development around softball facilities and soccer complexes. Think what 600 families in town on certain weekends for softball tournaments could do for restaurants and hotels? Renovating parks is going to cost us initially, but there is sales tax revenue to draw from, and if it pays itself off with immediate jobs and later tourism, it might be worthwhile to look at some financing.
• Incentives to lure businesses – In a newsroom discussion a few days ago, we tried to recall the last time a business that would employ at least twenty and add substantially to sales tax revenue opened here. It proved a fruitless discussion. Nothing since Walmart popped up. With the number of commercial buildings sitting empty, anything the county or city could do to lure a prospective operation should be considered. Maybe local government could create incentives for landlords to lower rents by forgoing some permit fees or taxes maybe. We’d strongly encourage county and city officials to get together with our resident economic developer and the chamber of commerce to come up with some ideas.
• The airport tech park/ airport expansion – This remains one of the brightest potential spots for attracting high-paying jobs to this area. This could be something unique to Pickens County for bringing high-quality industries here. If costs can be kept within reason, and there is a solid plan for not only finishing construction but also for marketing the tech park, for locating businesses within it and seeing that it becomes a sustainable, growing commercial generator, this is a place that some spending now should reap benefits down the road: good jobs for local people.
• Our closing caveat – The problem with promoting the above projects is that government (in the general sense) has such a poor track record. Come up with a plan that costs taxpayers up front but can more than pay for itself over a couple of years, and it’s immediately tagged as similar to every prior budget disaster any government ever had. Remember, local tax payers, Pickens County is not the leviathan federal government. People here can watch where tax dollars go and see that they are not squandered in a black hole somewhere in Washington.
In the words of many conservatives, “government needs to be run like a business.” That means investing when the time is right.