Sometimes it takes a few outside observations to provide a reality check.
A well-regarded economic development expert from Florida and site selection consultants from California and Georgia recently pointed to some glaring weaknesses in the Columbia area’s ability to remain economically strong.
As the city develops its vision for the future, the highest priority should be to commit itself to attracting light industry that provides well-paying jobs. But well before the long-term vision is established, the city’s residents need to think long and hard about the elections that will replace two city council members and get behind candidates who understand that the city’s highest priority should be to attract light industry that provides well-paying jobs.
Site selection experts brought in by Regional Economic Development Inc. recommended that Columbia improve and streamline its ability to provide tax incentives for industries considering whether to build manufacturing plants here, take extra measures to keep mu graduates here, and, above all, improve the airport service.
Because the Columbia area has not attracted new industry, it has fallen behind the municipal areas with the strongest economies. policom, a Florida-based economic research firm, ranked Columbia 130th out of 361 Metropolitan Statistical Areas.
It’s not a coincidence that when Quaker Oats located in Columbia, in what was to become the last major industry to open here, Columbia ranked 44th.
policom defines economic strength as the long-term tendency for an area to consistently grow in both size and quality, with quality measured by average earnings per worker. policom President William Fruth, in his presentation to the Economic Outlook Conference, outlined how growth in quality depends on the wage level of the primary industries, and showed why attracting low-wage jobs such as those in the retail sector brings down an economy in the long run.
While everyone can agree that Columbia has a good quality of life, that will not be quite as true for our children and grandchildren if we fail to come together and address these problems that are hindering quality economic growth. That means liberals and conservatives, environmentalists, business operators, university employees, the poor and the wealthy — basically the same cross-section of people that the city is attempting to involve in the big (Big Idea Gathering) meetings this past week.