Mayor's open letter: City on right development path
To read the entire text of Mayor Pat Landreth’s economic development letter, go to www.cityofcolusa.com.
Mayor Pat Landreth thinks Colusa is on the right economic development path, and he presented his case to the people in a letter posted this week on the city's website.
"There have been a lot of questions about what the City of Colusa is doing for economic development. It's important that the city update the community on what is being done and why certain decisions have been made," Landreth wrote as an introduction to the letter.
The letter, produced in conjunction with City Manager Jan McClintock, is in response to what Landreth and other city officials believe is misinformation that is circulating out in the community about the city's economic development efforts.
It addresses past problems, not the least of which was the shuttering of the Pirelli Cable plant in 2003, the largest private employer in the city.
What has followed, Landreth writes, is a series of failed attempts to work with Williams and the county to develop a countywide economic plan.
It also corrects a statement made at a recent City Council meeting that the Colusa had dropped the ball on an attempt to bring in an enterprise zone by noting the consultants working on that designation indicated the city did not qualify.
At that meeting, the city was accused of not being cooperative with the Colusa County Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Commission. Two groups are part of the same organization now.
That has been a testy issue for some council members, who have noted that Councilman Kirk Kelleher is the liaison to those groups, but believe he has been conspicuously absent in that role.
The letter also strongly suggests those organizations have been conspicuously missing from Colusa.
"People have expressed concerns about the City of Colusa's involvement with the Chamber of Commerce. The City of Colusa has been a consistent member of the Colusa Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the Colusa EDC when they were a separate organization," Landreth writes.
"To the best knowledge of current city staff, the EDC has sponsored no visits from prospective businesses to the City of Colusa. No existing city staff has been contacted by any members of the Chamber of Commerce or the Colusa EDC concerning businesses seeking to locate in the city."
Kelleher has been the most vocal critic of the city's current economic development efforts, but primarily focused on the contract paid to consultant Mark Mayuga.
He has called for the termination of the contract, which will be reviewed in April.
But if the letter is any indication, it would not appear that Kelleher will have the council support in ending the contract.
While Councilman Tom Reische voted against the contract in March, and still believes it is too costly for the city, Landreth and Councilwomen Kay Hosmer and Donna Critchfield have expressed their support.
The letter does nothing to suggest there is a change in those feelings.
It highlights Mayuga's work to bring prospective businesses to look at Colusa, his efforts toward tourism recruitment and industrial development.
"Many industries were reviewed during 2010 when staff was working with Mr. Mayuga for free. Other industries were targeted including food processors and other associated agricultural based sectors. There are several recruitment efforts under way involving industrial plants from various industries. That said, one industry stood out and is an industry targeted by both the Federal and State officials for growth — energy," Landreth writes.
The letter states the city has sent three requests for proposals to energy-related firms, all solar related, but the city did not receive any responses.
The letter goes on to address the Calmetha methanol plant, which holds the promise of being the biggest project in city history.
However, it has also stirred a great deal of controversy because of the secrecy, questions about its documentation filed with the state, the technology involved and some misinformation about the money behind the firm.
Bechtel, once portrayed as a player, has denied any association at all.
Mayuga recently clarified some of that by stating that Calmetha LLC, a Sacramento-based limited liability corporation, is a partnership of Siemens Germany, Lurgi Germany, and ProCone Switzerland.
That partnership is represented in North America by Pacific Power of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the parent company of which is Switzerland-based ProCone.
Landreth's letter is largely supportive of the project, addresses some of the issues raised at the recent meeting, and notes the prospect of a rail spur coming to Colusa, and how that would benefit much more than Calmetha.
"In working with Glenda Humiston of the USDA staff, (the city) learned that the Secretary of Agriculture had a project to 'rerail' rural America," Landreth writes.
"CIP has been unable to respond to several opportunities because they do not have a rail spur servicing the industrial park. ... One challenge (in) getting a new company for the former Pirelli Cable plant has been the lack of a rail spur. Rail traffic is much more energy efficient that truck traffic. CalNorthern, the regional railroad operator, is supportive of the rail spur to Colusa. It makes sense to bring the spur back to the City of Colusa to support jobs for our community."
In the end, Landreth emphasizes the need to create year-round, good paying jobs.
"Today, 51 percent of the City of Colusa population is characterized as a very low or low income household based upon federal guidelines from a study completed in 2009-10," the letter states.
"This makes economic development especially difficult because service and retail companies look not only at the number of potential customers in an area, but also at the purchasing power of those customers. The City of Colusa falls short in both of these areas."
He believes the current economic development efforts are the way to change that.