Target recruitment for sharper focus
We had the opportunity recently to hear Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer make a forceful defense of economic development. The lieutenant governor, who doubles as secretary of the Kansas Department of Housing and Commerce, said community focus was as an important a part of success as tax incentives.
Eudora has had its successes in recruiting industry. But we believe if Eudora is to compete against its affluent neighbors to the east and west, it most copy some of their strategies. It is time for the community to narrow its recruitment focus to those industries most compatible with the desires and resources of the community. As a way to work through that debate and develop the community focus Sherrer stresses, we suggest the city and Chamber of Commerce jointly conduct a targeted study to discover what types of industry the community should recruit and, just as importantly, the kind it wants.
The first question is objective. New industry should be a match to available infrastructure highways, rail service and telecommunications. Ideally, it would serve as a revenue source for city-owned utilities, while not requiring capital investments to expand the capacities of sewer and water plants.
The second part of the equation is more subjective. It requires the community to define its future, in part, through the kind of job creation it supports. Considerations should be wages, environmental consequences and workforce demographics. Community consensus on these issues can be learned through community forums, focus groups and surveys.
An obvious place to start is the K-10 "Smart" Corridor effort that hopes to capitalize on the community's access to advanced fiber optics and the growing importance of biological research firms in the corridor.
Once the study is completed, the next logical step would be to align policy with its findings through incentives. The study would provide the community focus Sherrer said is so important. When the city or school district offers tax breaks to new or expanding businesses, they could do so with the assurance the community supported them.
An economic development professional once explained the value of target studies to us with a comparison to fishing. They allow you, he said, to look for the right fish with the right bait.
The city is in the process of updating its comprehensive plan. We suggest Eudora take advantage of that timing to develop a clear community focus by identifying and targeting the industry it wants so that it will be better prepared to compete with its well-heeled neighbors.