When asked, most people will define “economic development” as meaning what the term obviously implies: developing businesses to grow the economy of a specific area. Makes sense. More than that, it’s a worthy goal. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Economic development certainly involves promoting existing and attracting new business to an area in hopes of providing more jobs, which means more revenue, which means more consumer spending which means more jobs which can mean more businesses. You get the idea.
But the core principle of economic development also involves pursuing economic development for the purpose of improving the overall well-being of the people who live within that economy. And that can include a myriad of factors, all of which contribute to better quality of life for people. The examples are obvious; this is a no brainer for people when they consider their own lives and the lives of those around them.
How healthy is the community? What kind of education do the schools provide? What kind of opportunities are there for advanced education, for advancement at work? What kind of activities occur that provide meaningful social engagement? What is there for people to do in their “spare” time? How inclusive are those activities of people who are different ages and abilities? What kind of housing is available? What social services—not necessarily government services but services that are provided to the public, at large—are available to those in need? Are there mental health services available? Financial counselling? Day care opportunities for children?
The list goes on and on.
This is National Economic Development Week, which means that we focus our attention on the person “at the helm” of economic development in this neck of the woods. And well we should, for a tremendous amount of work goes into a job like that.
But focusing on the accomplishments of one person takes the rest of us off the hook, and that is not a good thing. Developing an economy is not—and cannot be—the responsibility of one person. Or one board. Or a handful of elected officials. Yes, all those individuals are responsible as the roles they have assumed dictate that they take responsibility for what is and is not done.
The truth is that developing an economy is a community effort in every sense of the word, and it requires the effort of every person in the community. It might be as big as a start up business that creates jobs. But it’s also as simple as making sure to attend the events that different groups go to enormous work to put together. It means making sure to always “Shop Local” first. It means not just expressing opinions about what’s needed but also coming up with ideas to make those needed things a reality. It means being willing to work together toward a common goal because every community is only as strong as its weakest member.
Yes, those are big aspirations, but all big aspirations start with tiny steps. Economic development means being willing to take that first step, not just for ourselves or our families but the individuals we call our neighbors and friends and acquaintances.
Against that backdrop, what follows is just a sampling of some of the projects the Kiowa County Economic Development Foundation and various volunteers have accomplished in recent times. Check it out. Think about what else is needed and how the rest of us can contribute toward those ends, as well.
Affordable housing—that is, two 3 bedroom and four 2 bedroom apartments—is still in the works. Working with multiple organizations and state agencies ain’t exactly a quick process, but it’s getting done.
Proposal to build an office building behind USDA has blossomed into one that will house SE Mental Health Group, Lamar Area Hospice and Richards’ Well Calibrations.
Little Leaders Learning & Care Center inside the First Baptist Church will bring needed licensed childcare back to Kiowa County. KCEDF acts as the 501(c)3 needed for funding ins and outs and grant application.
Facilitation and administration of grants for such projects as tourism in southeast Colorado, the new Visitors’ Center for the National Park Service and Kiowa County Riding Club.
Coordinating social activities like Kids’ Fishing Day, Christmas drawings, Fair breakfasts and other events.
And that ain’t all. The rest of the list will appear on the Kiowa County Independent Facebook page.