Written by Don Ratzlaff Wednesday, 09 January 2008 20:57We don’t pretend to know whether the recent resignation of Jami Williams as economic development director at Marion was a triumph or a tragedy for that city’s future, or to what extent she was successful or unsuccessful in her efforts.
Our sense, based on what we’ve observed over the years in Hillsboro and around Marion County, is that stepping into such a role is incredibly challenging—to the point of being foolhardy. That’s not necessarily a reflection on the people who bravely accept such a job. Rather, it reflects the enormous challenge communities and counties like ours face to be “successful” in such endeavors.
“Economic development” is the buzz word and aspiration of almost every community in our state—and in almost every community in states that surround our state. The competition to attract new businesses and industries is beyond fierce; it is carnivorous. And the folks who seem to be the first to be devoured are the ones who are cast into these eco-devo roles against such incredible odds. Those who devour them are usually the same folks who hired them, or those who rise up to criticize them for “not accomplishing” enough.
We’re still intrigued by the approach of the newly formed Hillsboro Ventures Inc., which focuses on finding and developing homegrown would-be entrepreneurs—people who already have a tie to the community and don’t have to be convinced of its merits in competition with other communities. Measurable success will still be difficult to achieve if for no other reason than small towns have a limited number of people with the vision and gifts to be successful in today’s economy.
At the very least, we’re hopeful that a local, team approach will reduce the loss of good people who regularly are chewed up by unreasonable expectations to achieve the unreachable. —DR