While the city council did not allocate $50,000 in funding to Prowers County Development Incorporated for 2016, a request was made to the city late last year by Ron Cook, Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, to help fund a county-wide economic study priced at $50,000. PCDI pledged $25,000 to develop strategies and the city was asked to help contribute to the balance of payment to PUMA, Progressive Urban Management Associates. The organization is known to the community through its earlier studies, developing plans to lay groundwork for the creation of Healthy Places which has successfully been awarded various grants to establish physical recreation and outdoor exercise avenues for Lamar residents. After several work sessions and additional consideration during the council’s January 11th meeting, a unanimous vote was taken to provide $12,500 to begin the study.
The PUMA action plan lays out three phases of local analysis and several steps which will stretch out over seven months into 2016. Phase 1 is an economic assessment including site visits and input from major economic stakeholders which will result in an economic assessment overview for Prowers County. Phase 2 consists of an economic development action plan with priorities based upon economic impact and financial strategies as well as public and private partnerships. This phase will help identify some ‘quick wins’ which can be implemented in the community. The third and final phase will identify partnerships and funding strategy outlines. By August, PUMA intends to provide PCDI with the tools to implement the Economic Development Strategic Plan and foster economic growth in the county.
Commissioners Henry Schnabel and Wendy Buxton-Andrade joined Cook in his discussion with the council, who said the biggest concern over local economic development is identifying a direction to follow. Buxton-Andrade briefly recapped the Healthy Places Initiative development, stating that PUMA will show the community ways to think ‘outside the box’ and develop new ideas and local representatives who can function as champions to lead the community to some solid accomplishments. Schnabel added, “The study will bring some new eyes and viewpoints on our economic situation as well as a higher level of professionalism from past efforts.” He added that as our economy relies heavily on agriculture, there may be ways to create value added alternatives for business development now that there’s a renewed interest in constructing the dairy south of Holly. Cook said he would be in touch with Holly, Granada, Bristol and Wiley to determine if they could afford an economic buy-in to the PUMA program. “Those communities don’t have a lot of finances to match any contribution, but everyone should be able to share in the process,” he stated.
Councilman Kirk Crespin stated he was in favor of the project and after past discussions with the council, believed this would be a worthwhile project and was joined in that statement by councilwoman, Anne Marie Crampton as a motion was made to contribute $12,500. Crespin added that due to the simple economics of the county, Lamar would obviously be a beneficiary from the project. Cook said that from this point on, the results of the study just can’t sit on the shelf once it’s complete, people will need to step up to accomplish the study’s recommendations.
By Russ Baldwin
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