Nowadays the news is particularly disturbing. Hardly a day goes by without stories of massive layoffs and companies going bankrupt. But in spite of al that harsh truth, we are surrounded by opportunities. Here are some ideas to produce more jobs and increase the quality of life for the people of Farmington and the surrounding area:
• Hire an economic development specialist, and do it sooner rather than later.
We’ve had two Economic Development Specialists, and both of them paid for themselves many times over. Just look at what our first Economic Development Specialist , Larry Hughes, was able to do in the early 80s. Larry invented a method of financing industrial projects (later copied elsewhere) and got Iron Mountain Forge into the West Industrial Park. Iron Mountain Forge had out-grown its location in the old beer warehouse on Highway 32, and was going to leave our town to find a suitable place. Larry kept it in Farmington.
Not only did Iron Mountain Forge employ thousands of people down through the years, but it brought Ross Gordon and Carl Dobrzeniecki into town. Ross and Carl each started their own factories in Farmington, and, even though there have been some changes of ownership, all three operations continue to this day.
Larry Hughes was only with the city for a few years and the total budget for him was perhaps $80,000 for the entire period, but his efforts produced tens of millions in payroll which has translated into many millions of dollars in sales tax income to the city. Not bad for an investment of less than $100,000. And this doesn’t even include all the jobs created in the retail and service sectors by the industrial payroll.
You could do a similar analysis for Jim Dismuke, Farmington’s second economic development specialist. Part of the secret of our success down through the years has been the man hours we have devoted to economic development, and we just cannot get that done with our present part-time arrangement. We need to hire the best person we can find, even if it costs a bit more — as you can see, this is an investment that can pay us back many, many times over.
• Help every sector create new jobs.
Farmington’s over all prosperity depends on how many “outside” dollars it can bring in. When Walt Disney World in Florida buys plastic molded boats from Fortis, LLC, here in Farmington, some of that money goes into the pockets of Fortis’ workers as payroll dollars. Those dollars are “outside” money, and that money will be spent and re-spent around Farmington about seven times creating more jobs and sales tax income before it finally leaves town. Traditionally, industry is thought of as the sector that provides “outside” money, but here in Farmington we are fortunate to have several other sectors that also bring in outside money. In the past, we have focused almost exclusively on industry, but it’s time to widen our thinking. Here are some initial thoughts on what can be done in these other important parts of our economy:
1) Healthcare: We can work to provide more healthcare professionals by advocating for more dollars for training and education, such as Mineral Area College’s excellent nursing program. Procedures done in Farmington are bound to be often less expensive than those same procedures done in St. Louis; how can we get health care providers to send more business our direction, and thus produce more jobs here? Councilman Mark Kellogg, a medical professional himself, suggests that the city of Farmington work to help our two public hospitals find ways to achieve greater efficiency.
2) Government: Right now we have two of the most powerful legislators in Jefferson City, Senator Kevin Engler and Representative Dr. Steve Tilley. Our city needs to be working with them to create new ways to secure more state government and federal payroll.
3) Tourism: The city of Farmington deserves a comprehensive well-funded tourism program. We are surrounded by state parks, and Farmington is the real gateway to wine-country. We could fund this effort by Farmington City Administrator Greg Beaver’s excellent idea of placing a tourism tax on motel rooms in Farmington. Right now Senator Engler is the head of the Tourism Committee in Jefferson City.
4) Senior Citizens: Every senior who lives in our town is like a little factory bringing in outside money, and we need to find ways to get the word out that Farmington is a fabulous place to retire and live out their golden years. We have great medical facilities, wonderful recreation opportunities, we’re centrally located, we already have strong developers doing senior housing, and Civic Center Director Bill Towler is working on senior-specific programs in connection with the Senior Center that was just brought into the city (government). We have an attractive story to tell this generation.
• In any population there are always those who dream of starting their own business, and our area is blessed with many such people. The city needs to work with the Industrial Development Authority, the Chamber of Commerce, the banks, the realtors, the county, MAC and others to hold a series of “entrepreneur events” to help local people wanting to start their own business. Small business produces the majority of all jobs created in the USA.
In the depression of the 1890s, Farmington’s pro-active leadership won the state’s competition for a mental health facility, and the State Hospital was built here. In the depths of the Great Depression another generation of leaders in Farmington built a building and brought in a shirt factory. In the Jimmy Carter recession of 1979 and 1980 it was yet another group of imaginative leaders who opened an industrial park and brought jobs, growth and prosperity.
It wasn’t ever easy in any of those times, and it won’t be easy now. But we did it before, and together, we can do it again.
Mit Landrum, City Councilman, Ward 2
Candidate for Mayor