Business Journal reporter Jonathan Easley reported last week that for the first time in decades the City of Colorado Springs was about to enter the new year without a dedicated economic development team.
If that news didn’t turn your stomach, it should have.
What it says is that job-creation and economic development are of too little importance to the city.
The economic development department was at one time staffed with six dedicated members. Now, after years of budget cuts, the one remaining member has been moved into the city budget department and will split his time between counting beans and creating jobs.
It’s likely that little economic development work will get done because the mammoth job of tailoring the city budget is so demanding.
Downsizing a city entity responsible for not only attracting jobs but also retaining them during a time when local employment and sales tax collection numbers are so sickly makes no sense.
Who pulls their line out of the water when they’re most hungry?
The job-attraction effort now largely falls — as it has for the past couple of years — to the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., which is doing a pretty good job with the resources it has, but, let’s face it, the competition for jobs and high-profile, multimillion-dollar companies is fierce. We’re already fighting a losing battle to New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. Colorado Springs needs all the help it can muster.
The decision to eradicate the jobs team was made by former City Manager Penny Culbreath-Graft. Sure, budget cuts are a fact of life, but this is one sacrifice that shouldn’t have been made.
A city job-creation department is important to the business community. As Jonathan reported, the city budget manager and president of the EDC, as well as five leading mayoral candidates, all agree that such a department is crucial.
Maybe this is the type of thing that happens when the city doesn’t have a dedicated full-time mayor on watch.
The decision to fold the economic development department into the city budget department was a bad one, and the only suitable response will be for the newly elected mayor to reinstate it, regardless of what budget woes might linger.
Trash cans are returning to parks and streetlights are coming back. How about jobs, too?