Letter: Tired of economic development models that don’t work

Dear Editor:

I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts and suggestions to the community through our local newspaper!

Rio Blanco County has been at a crossroads for several years. Prospering from the good fortune of developing a very strong tax base relative to our small population but at the same time struggling with poor local commerce and an unhealthy private business sector.          

Regardless, thanks to our close and stable communities within Rio Blanco County and the wonderful natural resources of the area, folks around here can say they have a quality of life that makes living here special. There’s a balance. The health of local wildlife, habitat and natural resources are directly related to the economy and people that live here.

Can we enhance local commerce and prosperity while continuing to nurture a great quality of life that comes from striking a balance with our resources?

What has not worked? 

Economic models based on population growth don’t work anymore and haven’t for a long time.  American family incomes have failed to improve for 20+ years even after adding 50,000,000 people to the US population. For us here in Rio Blanco County, a tremendous amount of resources have gone into our county infrastructure, fueled, in part, by the notion that more people and jobs would come to the Meeker area and thus help our local economy.  It’s been like getting ready for a really big and expensive party, but nobody showed up! Almost everyone in Rio Blanco County has some stake and connection to our natural resources. If 8,000 people were added to Rio Blanco County it would have a tremendous impact to the wildlife, habitat, water and other limited natural resources we all rely on.  8,000 people added to Denver is a drop in the bucket.

Find solutions to improve the economy in Rio Blanco County by utilizing and supporting local businesses already here rather than investing in extraneous businesses and entities.  Most businesses here are survivors and already have a plan and don’t need or want another tax funded business seminar or Excel spreadsheet clinic. They would much rather have that money and resources used to enhance their positions. Neil Johnson of the “National Federation of Independent Businesses” said in a recent Herald Times article “our members say taxes are too high, and they say the federal tax code is too complicated. Small businesses spend too much time and money trying to comply with confusing and ever changing tax regulations”.  Local businesses here in Meeker and Rangely need help with the same issues and would have a better chance to thrive if given even a fraction of taxpayer resources that have already been spent on other ideas.

What could work?

With all the possible ways the county can help local businesses and commerce, there’s no reason to pursue initiatives that are highly contested or controversial!

Instead, encourage your county representatives to continue using more resources on a strong economic foundation and quality of life for the people and businesses here through the sustainable use of our resources.  Our local economy employs 100’s of people through ranching, the hunting and fishing industry, recreation, and other sustainable uses of our land and resources.  This is our local commerce.

Quality is better than quantity. Life is great here in Meeker and Rangely. We’re already rich in resources and quality of life.  What do you think?   

Shawn Welder

Small business owner