Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Failure of the FEDC to Git-R-Done

"They have officially admitted that they were powerless over Fayetteville’s economic development — that our economic future had become unmanageable. They came to believe that an outside consultant greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. The Mayor and a majority of the City Council made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of unknown outside consultants, who will make a searching and fearless economic inventory of our city. They should admit to the media, to themselves, and to each citizen the exact nature of their past failings as members of the FEDC."

It was a sad moment. Mayor
Dan Coody finally admitted last night that the city had no economic development plan. Bill Ramsey hid out so he didn't have to confess the obvious failure of the Cowbirds. Republican businessman Jeff Koenig, former Chairman of both the Cowbirds and the FEDC, sat there in shame without saying a word about the utter failure of the Fayetteville Economic Development Council to land a single new job, other than for his son to make a video.

Gary Dumas
presented Coody's plan to spend $75,000 to help FEDC Director Phil Stafford and the UA Technology Development Foundation hire an outside consultant for $150,000 to develop a "visioning statement" about economic development, because no public officials, university professors, business organizations, or local consultants could handle the job. Coody and Stafford are on the Board of the FEDC, and each have committed $75,000 of public funds to pay for the consultants, and that is only Phase One. Alderman Robert Rhoads, a Director of the FEDC, led the charge for spending our money. The FEDC and the Cowbirds have not offered a dime for the project.

Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations and Wealthy Business Executives says that "Fayetteville's deep industrial base and diverse tourism attractions ensure a healthy economy" already. The Cowbirds tell people that "Fayetteville offers a stable business climate," and they have said for years that their purpose was "fostering a prosperous business community!" Mayor Coody claims that we are already paying Ray Boudreaux to be in charge of economic development, so why doesn't someone ask him what his vision has been all these years on the payroll. The Fayetteville Economic Development Council says its vision is to "create and grow a diverse, vital and sustainable economy." Nice "visioning statement" we could borrow for less than $150,000, even if they don't have much to show for it after four years in existence.

Judging by the letter that Dumas sent and read last night, the Coody vision sees the purpose of economic development only to generate more tax dollars for the city. Republican businessman Jeff Koenig, the Cowbirds' candidate for mayor, says rather selfishly that he "
will support a serious economic development initiative to increase our high tax yield properties in order to relieve the ever-increasing tax demands upon the citizens of Fayetteville
." Neither are very inspirational.

I always thought that economic development was about creating a sustainable economy with good jobs that paid a living wage so that our citizens could afford decent housing, good health care, quality education, and full lives in our unique community. That's true economic development, and Alderman
Lioneld Jordan is the only public official who has articulated that vision.

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