On spending choices to stimulate economic development.
October 28, 2007
I'm all for beautifying the city. But $20-30 million is a lot of money for the Connective Corridor initiative. Fresh sidewalks, street lights, trees, and bus shelters. Shouldn't those items be part of ongoing city and Centro maintenance expenses? Public improvements backed by a theme is thoughtful and commendable. However, the project seems expensive and over-hyped.
The Connective Corridor may help economic development, but only marginally and only in a roundabout way. We need the beef. We should also consider how $30 million in special funding could otherwise be spent to stimulate the economy. For example, we could stimulate the economy from within by offering financial and resource assistance to new startups and to help existing small businesses expand (any business, not just high tech). It's all well and good if we can coax a major company to open a big office or factory here (without throwing away all the potential gain through grants and tax breaks). But, realistically, it will take a robust economic and cultural environment to achieve that. In the mean time, we can focus more on a sure thing: growth from within.
$30 million could fund 1,000 latent business startups and expansions (average of $30,000 each), which would leverage a total of around $150 million in new local business investment. That, along with the business revenue generated, would generate 3,000-5,000 new jobs initially (more over time), plus more property and sales tax revenue for the city. Imagine this as an ongoing program.
Supporting growth from within is the surest, cheapest, and most direct way for the city to create jobs and reverse Syracuse's shrinking population.
Note: Post-Standard letter, published Nov 1, 2007; underlined text was left out.
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