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“Creating jobs” is a civic leader litany in economic development mythology, as in, “We must create private sector jobs.” A further piece of the litany — the next verse, I suppose — is that the private sector jobs must be of “quality.”
Behind the focus on private sector jobs is the myth that private sector economics are stable, and yet they sometimes depend on the public sector, conjuring images of an addled citizenry mainlining government dollars through a tube. For all this private sector talk, rest assured that the powers-that-be got very excited when the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center talked about putting a campus in Artesia. In 1989, the government bought a former college campus. The center is still in Artesia.
The assumption is that the private sector is better, and I totally agree, but as to stability, I doubt the private sector wins. My conversation with former Rep. Heather Wilson during her recent Senate race touched on the topic. It is nearly impossible to eliminate a government activity, Wilson said.
Private sector activity, operating in the turmoil of Joseph Schumpeter’s “creative destruction,” comes and goes all the time. In my neighborhood, what was a Blockbuster video rental store has been vacant for several years. Recent remodeling activity suggests that someone believes economic potential exists in the location.
The construction jobs came from individuals having ideas, not from any powers-that-be. Individuals will fill the jobs in the remodeled space.
Another tale of job creation by individuals comes from the Navajo Nation. As told in Sally Ooms’ new book, “Finding Home,” (findinghomestories.com) producers of crafts, mostly jewelry, created the Antelope Trails Vendors Organization to bring some order and scale to roadside sales by members of the Navajo Gap Chapter House in Arizona. With innovations such as larger sales sites, business has increased.
On a larger scale, my guess (though I don’t know) is that the new potash mine proposed in Lea County by Intercontinental Potash Corp. started with company geologists. Even more likely is that senior management has a policy of seeking new deposits and the geologists responded.
On the economic stability myth, the Hewlett Packard customer service facility in Rio Rancho was hailed as a solid addition to the local economy, large corporation and all that. Colorado Springs might disagree. It lost one of the operations consolidated to Rio Rancho, where HP corporate turmoil meant the anticipated 1,350 jobs didn’t happen and there were layoffs.
Sometimes bright ideas from individuals take a while to develop. In the 1970s, Charlie Crowder conceived Santa Teresa as a cross-border industrial area with a large residential component. Crowder turned out to have far more ideas than money. The dream persisted through various owners. Santa Teresa booms now. The most recent announcement came from powers-that-be, such as governors. They talked of plans for infrastructure that will enable the dream.
Creating the environment is the task best performed by powers-that-be from chambers of commerce to government. Environment can be physical infrastructure, such as roads and sewers, or atmospheric, rules and regulations or attitude, welcoming of large operations or little guys.
Atmosphere can be negatively affected. Consider comments about the Santa Fe-area Ortiz Gold Project of Santa Fe Gold Corp. Rep. Brian Egolf, Santa Fe Democrat, denounced the project in terms nearly too precious to believe. Egolf wants to protect “environmentally friendly activities we’ve been nurturing and growing here (such as) arts and tourism,” according to the Mountain View Telegraph. With that emphasis life would be simpler. We wouldn’t need potash mines or law enforcement training or national laboratories or much else.