E conomic development is a phrase that is tossed around in the media and by politicians on a regular basis. They always make it sound like a great deal for the local area. It supposedly brings jobs and money and increased tax base to the area where it occurs.
First of all what is economic development?
There are many definitions. Wik ipedia def ines economic development as the increase in the amount of people in a nation’s population with sustained growth from a simple, low-income economy to a modern, high-income economy.
A definition from Oregon State University Department of Education defines economic development as the institutional changes made to promote economic betterment.
It is the social organizational changes made to promote growth in an economy.
Suffice it to say that there are a large number of varying opinions on just exactly what economic development is.
The one that I like the most Michael P. Bonner, DDS is from Purdue University; economic development is growth that is planned and or desired. Planned and desired are the key words.
Texas has realized tremendous economic development growth over the last 20 years. Experts predict continued growth in the future as some one million people per year are moving to Texas.
Some definitions of economic development, such as Wikipedia’s definition, include an increase in population.
Is continued growth in Texas necessarily indicative of economic development?
Texas has already experienced tremendous growth. The governor has repeatedly referred to the large number of businesses that have moved to the state in the last few years and speaks of the creation of 850,000 jobs.
The population has boomed yet we currently face the biggest budget shortfall the state has ever seen. So where is the economic development?
Maybe the budget deficit is the result of economic development. Population growth requires more infrastructure to support that growth.
Increased growth puts pressure on current infrastructure. Highways, schools, housing, employment opportunities and just about everything else will feel increased pressure.
If population exceeds the ability for society to meet the increased demands of that population on the existing infrastructure then economic development can have negative consequences. The theory is that things will eventually even out.
That is where planned and desired come into play. If you can in fact plan and direct economic growth then you can help create the positive economic development that is wanted.
That is why planning by a county or city is so important. An economic development plan should attempt to identify and attract those businesses or industries that best fit the local resources to support the increased growth.
There is one type of economic development that will fit just about any situation.
CSG economic development was described to me recently by Bandera County Judge Richard Evans. He said that CSG has been working well in his county which is about 8,000 smaller in population than Milam County.
Just what is CSG economic development? Come, spend and go.
Bandera County has an abundance of weekend visitors that come to enjoy the Texas Hill Country. These folks boost the local economy and then move on. As Judge Evans said, “Things get a bit crowded on most weekends, but during the week we are still a rural county with a great quality of life.”
Perhaps it is time for the communities of Milam County to come together and identify some CSG economic development projects.
Working together and looking forward we can insure we create the kind of economic development that will help maintain what most of us love about Milam County, our quality of life.