Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Letter to County Executive Re Economic Development

In response to the recent departure of Department of Economic Development Director Pradeep Ganguly, I, along with Councilmembers Valerie Ervin, Mike Knapp and George Leventhal, sent a letter to County Executive Ike Leggett urging him to appoint a new director with a comprehensive vision for the County’s future and who would provide realistic strategies to enable the County to navigate current economic challenges. We said in the letter that the County must reclaim its competitive advantage.

We went on to say, “Memoranda of understanding with China are intriguing; however at this time, we are focused closer to home and believe the County should be directing resources to bioscience, technology, green jobs and business innovation. We also need to support and promote minority and local small business.”

Employment in the County has stalled and is now declining. The County’s unemployment rate has increased to 4.6 percent, the highest level since 1990. Home sales, which were down 20.5 percent in 2006 and 23.4 percent in 2007, fell another 17.8 percent in 2008. Home sales prices and residential assessments also have dropped. The letter said that these indicators suggest continued weakness in County tax revenue, and that the trend is evidence of the need for strong leadership.

The letter went on to say: “…We are looking to you to appoint an economic development leader who will undertake aggressive strategies for enlarging the County’s economic tax base by attracting new, forward thinking companies and enhancing the competitiveness of the businesses located in the County.”

I believe if we are to continue to satisfy our community's high expectations for quality of life, we should take this opportunity to focus on economic development. With more jobs and a stronger support system for them, we can spread the tax burden across a larger base, enhance our work-life balance, promote entrepreneurship, encourage diversity and ultimately make the county a more affordable place to live.

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