Post Independent opinion: County has puzzling approach to economic development funding |

Post Independent opinion: County has puzzling approach to economic development funding

Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

It can be a bit bewildering to understand Garfield County’s approach to economic development funding.

To their credit, the commissioners recently took steps to fund efforts in Rifle and Carbondale.

But some residents were angered when they discovered that the $230,000 the county is paying to host the Rifle Airport 2011 Airshow comes from the Economic Development Office budget.

Oddly, the $70,000 the county is paying to the Carbondale Economic Development Partnership, Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. and the Roaring Fork Business Resource Center comes from discretionary funds.

This is partly because the economic development budget was tapped out. Expenditures other than the airshow include hiring consultants to outline economic development options for the county and to review how business friendly county regulations are. County Manager Ed Green said funding for local efforts will be included in the Economic Development Office budget next year.

On the one hand, money is money and it’s more important what it’s spent on than what budget it comes out of. Yet why go to the trouble of identifying distinct purposes for pots of money and then spend out of them interchangeably? At the worst, it causes angst among residents who perceive that their tax dollars aren’t being spent correctly.

Green said the airshow is an item in the Economic Development Office budget each year. He also said this year it is primarily a celebration of the opening of the new runway.

As for the airshow’s effectiveness as an economic development tool, Green referred to the “collateral benefit” of having people at the airport, what he refers to as the “epicenter for economic development for the county.”

But is this the best way to display the airport to prospective businesses? Perhaps it would be more effective to offer tours without the distraction of a concert, jet-fueled school bus and pyrotechnic display.

Other items in the Economic Development Office budget this year included support of the 5Point Film Festival and Glenwood Springs Summer of Music. The line between economic development and entertainment certainly seems to be blurred in Garfield County. Arguably any activity that brings people to Garfield County will have that collateral benefit of exposing outsiders to what we have to offer. But that isn’t a very strong argument for expenditure of economic development funds.

As for the airshow itself, Green says there will be no immediate revenues from the event, which has attracted 17,000 people in the past. With attendance like that, even a fairly nominal $5 entry fee would recoup more than one third of the event’s cost to the county, more than was pledged to local economic development efforts this year.

When the dust settles, though, no matter where the money came from, the commissioners will have spent $230,000 on the airshow and a miserly $70,000 on local economic development efforts.

Our proudly business-friendly commissioners could be spending more toward promoting business, and disbursing it in a way that makes sense to residents.

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