Phyllis attending the “Water as a Resource: 2020 Vision for Water” on February 11, 2020. Featured in the middle on the top image is the president of League of Women Voters of Washington. Featured on the left in the bottom image is the president of the Spokane branch.
Teddy Kardos helping the Kalispel Tribe with plumbing work.
What does Responsible Rural Growth & Development mean in the context of Pend Oreille County?
Let’s look on the bright side and there is a bright side. There are jobs, plenty of jobs, in Pend Oreille County. We can create sustainable and living wage jobs in our public forestlands. Living in a forested area requires a responsibility from all of us to become active stewards of these lands. We should start with forest thinning, which helps mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfire, reduces the chance of insect or disease outbreak, increases the diversity of our forests, and improves the appearance of our public lands. We can partner with our local community college and provide a forestry training program for those young men and women who would work year-round in the forests. There are so many possibilities, and fresh, innovative ideas are exciting.
The advantage of living in Pend Oreille County right now are the high tech and recreation opportunities. Those opportunities are calling young people and families to relocate. Pend Oreille County is close enough to a national airport, state of the arts medical and health facilities, plus major shopping centers and world class entertainment that travel is not a big issue for most. Affordable housing is truly needed to prepare for those who are searching for a quality place to live and raise their families, and/or run a business out of their homes.
Another issue to start looking at, especially in light of the coronavirus, social and political unrest, are the statistics that support a wave of people intending to leave the urban areas for safety reasons. They are looking at small, rural areas like Pend Oreille County where they feel their families are safer and the environment is cleaner and healthier.
A rural county is not the place for finding a wide range of living wage, skilled jobs. There are job opportunities, however, in agriculture, timber, healthcare, government, service, tourism, small businesses, home-run businesses, entrepreneurships, and recreation. One can choose to live a subsistence lifestyle through gardening, small scale farming to supplement wages or small private businesses and there are other possibilities.
Like running a household, Pend Oreille County has to learn to live within her economic means; a rural community is fiscally unable to provide all the services and amenities one finds in an urban area. The resources and tax base are just not here to do that.
However, we need to look for ways to strengthen the tax base in Pend Oreille County if, for no other reason than to maintain our present level of services. Pend Oreille County is facing some serious challenges:
- An inevitable transitioning of rural youth into the urban areas seeking better paying jobs;
- A loss of productive timberland and agricultural land;
- The loss of our mining industry and papermill;
- An increase in the costs of goods and services;
- Economic downfall due to the closing of businesses and the coronavirus.
Rather than running with a “hit or miss” approach, there are “smart strategies” that can help Pend Oreille County and its communities achieve their economic goals without sacrificing or compromising our distinctive rural character, our environment and our health, and they need to involved citizens at all stages. They include:
- Planning where development should or should not go;
- Policies that protect the rural landscape, help preserve open space, timberland and
- Places for recreation and tourist attractions that bring investments into the local economy;
- Policies that support a healthy community by supporting walking paths, safe biking routes, and areas for working out;
- Policies and programs that promote local entrepreneurship businesses and small business owners;
- Planning for affordable housing.
Our county can appeal to those folks who are looking for a place to visit or live by providing broadband connectivity, plenty of open spaces, a variety of arts and humanities programs, good schools, quality medical and health services, safe neighborhoods, entrepreneurial opportunities, and a scenic natural landscape.
Growth & Development needs to be deliberate and fully planned out instead of using a chaotic, knee jerk reaction approach. As an example, trying to site an urban industrial silicon metal smelter without a plan for the supporting infrastructure, increase costs to the taxpayers, impacts on the environment, impacts on schools, impacts to our health services, impacts on housing, impacts on our utilities, plus police and fire protection, plus the costs of continual year-round maintenance is foolish. Throwing all support towards one industry in the hope that the county’s fiscal challenges will be solved is a recipe for fiscal and environment disaster.
Pend Oreille County should not attempt to compete with urban job markets or the pay scales in Seattle or Spokane. It cost more to live in urban areas. We are rural, not urban. Let’s embrace it! Let’s embrace us!
See my document on responsible & smart, rural economic development & growth and what it means to Pend Oreille County.