Sometimes the wheels of government can turn relatively quickly. We applaud the Marion County Board of Commissioners for hearing a first request for a county-wide economic development director, and then taking concrete action to toward finding one with the appointment of an exploratory task force-all within five days!

Commissioners could have easily put off action for several months because the county’s 2004 budget-which included significant cuts-is already in place and has few if any places to find the $50,000 or so that may be needed to fund such a position adequately. Instead, our commissioners stepped up and moved ahead with haste.

Commissioners have rightly judged the need for county representation at various regional planning forums as being urgent. Our county is one of the few in the state that does not have someone so designated to represent its interests. Without such a person to speak on our behalf, we will be left behind at a time when we can least afford to be.

In the face of declining income for county government, our commissioners have been steadfast in refusing to raise the tax levy, opting instead for budget reductions. In that context, the thought of starting a new county department for economic development appears extravagant. But it isn’t. It is absolutely necessary for the county’s economic future. In fact, we would rather see the commissioners raise taxes to pay for such a program than to step away from this mandate.

If the task of an economic development department is appropriately defined, an investment of tax dollars for this purpose will be more than repaid down the road as additional businesses and employees find a home within our borders.

With the action taken this week, Marion County is heading in the right direction. Keep moving that way. -DR

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