You’ll hear a lot of candidates talk about “economic development” and how it has to be the number one priority for West Jordan in the next 4 years (or more.) It’s always good to find out exactly what someone means when they use buzzwords like economic development, or smart growth, or affordable housing. I’m sure over the next several months I’ll go into my thoughts on each of these issues, but for right now, let’s talk about economic development.
What Is It?
When I’m talking about economic development, I’m referring to the set of activities that brings tax dollars to West Jordan that our citizens don’t have to pay for. Broadly speaking, I’m talking about jobs, shopping, entertainment, industry, and so on. I’m talking about helping West Jordan become a place where you can live, and work, and shop, and seek your entertainment; and where people who live in other cities will come in order to do those things as well. These activities generally bring sales tax dollars along with property tax dollars (at nearly twice the rate of a single-family home).
What are the benefits of economic development? Can’t we just be a sleepy bedroom community?
In short, yes, we could just be a sleepy bedroom community. In that case, however, every city service you want your city to provide would be covered mostly by property taxes. This includes city parks, roads, police and fire departments, code enforcement, and so on. So benefit number one is tax revenue, and specifically tax revenue that you and I don’t have to pay every year with our property taxes. Businesses bring in sales tax, they pay property tax, and they often have a multiplier–where people come to the city to work or to attend an event, etc., and while they’re there they buy dinner or gas or groceries. Having more people spend more money in West Jordan is an especially good thing for those of us that live here.
Having your job closer to where you live means you don’t have to drive as far to get to work. This takes cars off the road, leading to improved traffic flow and less frustration and headaches when you get in your car in the morning.
Directly related to the traffic issue is improved air quality. Fewer and shorter car trips lead to reduced emmissions and improved air quality. That benefits everyone.
As the city attracts higher-paying jobs, the people that fill those jobs will be looking for higher-value homes that are close to work. Currently, as developers approach the city with smaller and denser homes, they claim that this is what the market is demanding in our area. As the higher-paying jobs come, however, and the people that fill those jobs, the demand will begin to be for more upscale housing (regardless of density or other arbitrary measurements), which will drive values of neighborhoods and homes up, benefitting those residents that are already here.
Poverty and Crime
Because there will be more jobs within reach of more of our residents, the percentage of our residents living in poverty because they can’t find well-paying jobs will drop. And when poverty drops, so does blight, crime, and other societal issues that go along with it.
I hope this helps to explain what economic development is, and why it’s important to West Jordan. We’re working well towards some real progress in this area, and I will continue to advocate for providing the staff with the resources necessary to work with the state and other officials, as well as the companies that are looking for places to locate. I myself recently began working right here in West Jordan at a brand new hot tub and pool table store, and all of the full-time employees that work in my store live in West Jordan. It’s progress that we can’t afford to start over on.