The Finney County Economic Development Corp. has long battled funding woes in its quest to create jobs.
Voters rejected previous attempts to pass a modest countywide sales tax to support economic development efforts. With limited funding from existing sources, the FCEDC can’t always offer competitive incentives required to lure businesses and industries to town as a way to create jobs needed to further stimulate the local economy.
Current financial support for the FCEDC comes from Finney County ($150,000), Garden City ($130,000), Holcomb ($25,000) and Garden City Community College ($15,000).
Knowing that level of funding cannot sustain an aggressive, ongoing plan to fuel investment in business growth — especially when competing with other communities — the FCEDC has discussed the possibility of making another run at a sales-tax initiative.
The idea would be to devote a .15-cent sales tax now collected in Finney County and dedicated to HorseThief Reservoir — tentatively slated to sunset in 2021 — to economic development.
Local voters already rejected similar attempts to pour more tax dollars into the FCEDC, and many would be wary once again.
Selling the latest plan will require a clear picture of the return on investment. And not only in a pledge to deliver more good-paying jobs, but also in specifics on how those jobs would drive quality-of-life and other community improvements.
While we’ve seen notable progress in primary-job growth of more than 3,700 jobs from 2009 to 2016, according to the FCEDC, there’s still a pressing need for more workers earning higher wages and the economic gains they provide.
And even with recent and notable successes — the milk powder plant, transload facility and housing, health care and retail development, for example — the community cannot rest on its laurels when it comes to growth opportunities.
It’s also worth noting that a cloud of doubt hovers over the retail sector. The demise of big-box stores nationwide due to consumers shopping online — the recent closure of Sears in Garden City was an example — will continue.
No community can afford to shortchange economic development strategies if it hopes to remain strong and viable, which is why the FCEDC’s latest idea warrants a closer look and consideration.