Government needs to set stage for economic growth
There was a time here in Las Cruces when a lot of good things were happening. The community was prospering.
Private sector investments in our community were steady. We were building affordable homes and with that came a lot of good paying construction jobs.
There was a sense of pride as we participated in the growth of our community.
People outside of the community began to take notice, too, as we were recognized nationally for our success.
Time and again, we were high on the lists of the likes of Fortune and Money Magazine for being one of the best small towns to do business and grow a career. We also received several national accolades for being one of the best and most affordable places to retire. Those recognitions led to more growth and investments and new higher-wage jobs, including those at a new hospital.
With this growth and success, there were some growing pains – something that should be expected. Naturally, we would want to work in such a way as to correct the issues common to any thriving community while at the same time nurturing the prosperity many had worked so hard for and had invested so heavily in to achieve. Safeguarding the benefits of that growth for our community, which included the prosperity, jobs and improved quality of life, should have been at the forefront of our elected official’s minds.
Unfortunately, a new type of leadership emerged in our community who instead of righting the course of success when it was a bit off, determined they would redefine what success was for our community and steer us in a whole new direction. For years, now we have seen increased ordinances, inspections, permits, fees, restrictive codes, larger taxes and bureaucracy. They execute their initiatives with little focus groups of like-minded believers instead of what is best for the community as a whole.
Fast forward to today – where has this direction taken us in regards to the prosperity of the community and the future possibilities for our children and grandchildren? If your idea of prosperity is the highest taxes ever, questionable dialogues on the use of those taxes, walkability and bike paths and the city and county government telling you what you can and cannot do with your property, both today and for generations to come, then we are doing great.
How do those outside our community view us today? Not so well, I am afraid, and with good reason. Las Cruces was at No. 2 in the nation as a best-performing small city, Forbes/ Milken Institute – Best Small Metro Area for Business & Careers in 2004.
Today we are at 55, last year we were 82. Where will we be next year when the new gross receipts tax and increased minimum wage are factored in?
We received many notices nationally for being a great retirement town, but with these latest turns locally causing a higher cost of living we are bound to see a change in that perspective. Kiplinger, a Washington, D.C.-based publisher of business forecasts and personal finance, advice has put New Mexico on the list as one of the worst states to retire in the U.S. Our local actions are contributing to that designation.
How do we view our community today in the area of prosperity and the future? If you are just retired here, then it is a pretty good perspective. If you are raising a family, building a career or business, then things are not so great.
The mindset for many of our best and brightest young people is to leave right out of the gate. Those who are trying to put down roots and grow here are becoming discouraged due to the lack of promise and opportunities. We are certainly not attracting young professionals who will help build the future of our community. Many who had success here, in the past, are discouraged to the point of pulling up stakes and going to where the opportunity to succeed is more of a reality We need to consider our direction and right the course before we undo everything that made our community a great place to live not so long ago. We still have a wealth of hardworking, dedicated folks who, if given the chance, will succeed and bring with them prosperity for this community.
Recently, I heard a city councillor say the city has a new, three-year strategic plan that focuses on economic growth and development at a public address. I hope they understand it is the people of this community who build the economic base, not the government.
The government should merely set the stage for such growth and allow the private sector to go from there.
Everyone knows that bad news travels fast. We need leadership that will not signal to those who would invest in our community they are not welcome.