Throughout this campaign season, we have been treated to Commissioner Toler and his friends touting his great energy in bringing jobs to this county: First Call Resolution, and a couple of other businesses. We’ve also been reminded of a less successful effort to create jobs and biofuel with our economic development funds, namely Northwest Seed Crushers, who got a large grant without any capital or any experience in agriculture, much less in growing canola.
Using great amounts of energy does not exhibit great management. In my work as a gardener, I do not put a lot of energy into helping any one plant grow. The best a gardener can do is to provide the proper conditions for growth of all plants, and weed out the undesirables. That provides prettier landscapes and a larger harvest with less work than giving special attention to a few plants and letting the rest make it on whatever nature gives them in the way of food and water as the weeds choke them out.
In using our economic development funds, this Board has judged the plans of businesses that ask for help and has given special grants to some businesses from our economic development funds. The rest of the businesses in the county have had to contend with great stumbling blocks to startup or expansion in the form of huge permit fees and SDCs, without any assistance from the County.
This Board could encourage a lot more business in this county with a lot less work and controversy by making economic development grants equal and automatic, offered to any business applying for a building permit anywhere in the county, to help it over the stumbling block of permit fees. Since the grant could not be large enough to finance the business itself, it would not encourage weeds like Northwest Seed Crushers. But an outfit like Southern Oregon Seed Oils, people who invest their own money in their business, would have a leg up on the fees that otherwise would slow them down or stop them.
The Oregon Constitution forbids special favors, which these grants have been. When the state gives out college education grants, the legislature does not judge each applicant’s education plan and fund only the ones that they approve. They set up objective criteria and administrators give equal grants to those who qualify. The legislature set up the conditions once; they don’t have to be involved thereafter; and there are no special favors granted. This Board should do the same with our economic development money.