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Economy is issue No. 1 in Colusa
High unemployment, low-paying wages and a highly charged political environment has made economic development the most varied and volatile issue in Colusa.
What is undeniable in that context is that the six candidates seeking three seats on the City Council have to address their priorities and ideas on how to achieve economic recovery.
Christopher Fantl is not sure of the how, yet, but he is quite certain the top priority should be the downtown area.
"I think the economic development policy the city should have is developing what we already have, and fill the vacant buildings downtown," Fantl said Tuesday.
Councilman Kirk Kelleher points to marketing the old Pirelli Cable site as a priority that has the potential for a real impact.
"It is already in the city limits, and it is the biggest void. It was the biggest loss in jobs and it could be the biggest gain in jobs," Kelleher said.
But he emphasized that the economic development policy should have specific, reachable goals, not a consultant-based plan.
"I think it is appropriate for the city to spend a certain amount of money to support economic development," Kelleher said.
"But it cannot be hiring someone and we paying for whatever they bring us; it just doesn't make sense," Kelleher said. "You can't win if you don't have specific goals."
Councilwoman Kay Hosmer thinks job-rich companies must be the target, and if that means developing incentive programs to attract them, then the city needs to discuss that possibility.
She said that has never been part of the policy discussions.
Hosmer said the companies can be everything from manufacturing, to training centers to educational facilities. She does not think retail will be the answer, but does think those kind of shops will come once there is a working population with enough income to support them.
"We have to have some kind of larger firm to bring in the population and the incomes, like we had with Pirelli. When we lost Pirelli, we lost our job status," Hosmer said.
"We still want to be the town we were when we had Pirelli and those jobs, but we do not have the employment with local people getting that money."
Marilyn Acree said the roadmap already exists. The city just needs to get to work.
Acree believes the plan developed by Chabin Concepts of Chico lays out the framework from which to work, but admits it will require some reorganization of staff time, more hands-on council participation and community volunteers.
The latter has been an issue in the past, and was to some degree with the Chabin plan, which ironically was the roadmap from which controversial consultant Mark Mayuga was supposed to work.
But Acree said it would have the city structure behind the effort, and she added, whomever is hired as the new city manager should be prepared to head up that work.
"There is a lot of groundwork that needs to be done," Acree said.
Acree said combined with the general plan, the city should have a clear direction on how to proceed, and one of the first steps is to wade through all the material produced by Mayuga and determine what are legitimate business leads and which are not.
Landreth said that process has already started.
He still believes the key to Colusa's economic recovery is to attract new businesses to the city, and believes the council members may have to carry more of the point duties now.
"We just received information from Mark Mayuga and we need to go over that and recontact (the businesses) and find out which of them is interested in coming to Colusa," Landreth sad.
He also believes it is up to the city to get the message out that Colusa is a business-friendly city with an open door.
Until city revenues are increased, he said, the services residents want and need — including public safety — will go unfunded.
Ponciano does not disagree with that, but favors an inside-out approach, and said the guides for the future should be the business owners who have been successful.
"We need to give our existing businesses all the tools they need, and then fill in around them with businesses that complement them," Ponciano.
He believes those businesses can tell the city what those tools are, and said the "home run approach" is the wrong one for Colusa.
"I think our last attempt was to hit a home run and I think we need a bunch of bunt singles," Ponciano said. "We need to build this up one brick at a time."
And Ponciano said the downtown area cannot be such a focus that the rest of the town is ignored.
"There are empty building throughout town, and those were all once businesses, too," Ponciano said.