Economic development commission should be top priority

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When it comes to the concept of government working efficiently for the people, very often the first reaction from a citizen and taxpayer is one of skepticism.

Too often citizens have seen their government bodies, well meaning as they may be, talk of big plans but then end up only spinning their wheels as they attempt to get even the smallest task accomplished.

Add a recession to the mix, with local government budgets stretched razor thin and the prospect of any significant new community initiatives or projects usually becomes more wishful thinking than reality.

But sometimes when things appear bleak, great ideas emerge. One such idea has emerged from officials from the cities of Camas, Washougal and the Port of Camas-Washougal, who are currently exploring an economic development partnership focused on Camas and Washougal.

It’s an initiative that could be a wise short term investment for our area but more importantly reap long term benefits in the form of new, local jobs.

To recap, as reported in the Sept. 14 edition of the Post-Record an economic development partnership between the cities of Camas, Washougal and the Port is currently being explored. Mayors Paul Dennis of Camas, Sean Guard of Washougal and Commissioner Mark Lampton from the port are the lead players so far in an attempt to lay a blue print for such an entity.

This non-governmental organization would be funded by and answer to all three local agencies. It would have a director and its mission would be very straight forward — bring new companies, large and small, to the Camas and Washougal area.

This idea makes so much sense it is hard to believe it hasn’t been brought forward to the community before now.

For starters our community of two cities needs new jobs desperately. New residents continue to locate here at a brisk rate, but the number of new jobs has not even come close to keeping pace.

Second, Camas and Washougal have some of the best selling points of any cities in the county to present to new companies considering locating here. Quality schools, overall good livability and easy access to the airport and I-5 are just a few. We just need someone to make the sales pitch.

Third and potentially the biggest plus for new businesses, would be the creation of the economic development commission itself. That would send a message, as Camas City Councilman Steve Hogan recently noted, that our area really does want to see new businesses locate here. Businesses could feel confident that every effort would be made to assist them in their transition to our community, knowing that the economic development commission was in place and standing behind them.

The idea, on the drawing board, seems to be a no-brainer, a complete win-win for the community. But getting any idea off the drawing board to the approval stage is never easy. In this case, moving quickly so the momentum isn’t lost and funding the commission in the upcoming city and port budgets may be the biggest challenges that lie ahead.

The hope here is that city councilors from both cities and the port commission will see this as a golden opportunity to improve the quality of life here locally, as well as to improve their respective tax bases. They should act swiftly, decisively and in a united fashion to fund this commission in their upcoming budgets, for the long-term economic health of the community.