Ray Scott keeps focus 
on West Slope economy

Give Grand Junction state Rep. Ray Scott credit for keeping his eye on the ball with respect to what’s critically important for his constituents — improving the local economy.

That’s of greater value to most of the residents of Mesa County than taking highly publicized but largely meaningless stands on national issues that are outside the purview of the state Legislature, as some other lawmakers are prone to do.

Moreover, there is very little hubris behind the ideas that Scott says he hopes to discuss with Ken Lund, the director of the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade, now that Lund has agreed to meet with Scott to discuss economic development on the Western Slope.

As Scott told The Daily Sentinel’s Charles Ashby, “I’m not saying those are the right ideas, but they are ideas.”

One of Scott’s ideas has been around in various forms for decades — establishing a task force to study the feasibility of moving the headquarters of some state agencies that have the greatest impact on or involvement with the Western Slope to this region. But it is certainly an idea worth pursuing again, especially since Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed capital improvement budget for the state is heavily tilted toward the Interstate 25 corridor.

Several of Scott’s other ideas aim to reduce or alleviate government regulations that can serve as obstacles to companies engaged in business in this part of the state, including energy companies.

That’s fine. Reducing government red tape is one part of the equation for improving the local economy. But simply cutting back on government isn’t the entire answer.

A look at communities in this state and around the country where the economy is thriving will show most have local and state agencies that are actively engaged in creating infrastructure that can help attract new businesses and boost the local economy. These projects include everything from roads and bridges to modern business parks. This also means supporting economic development projects, pushing for good schools and backing cultural and recreational amenities that make corporate owners and their staffs eager to live in a particular area.

Scott would also like to have the state assist area coal mines in working with railroads to make it more feasible to produce coal here and export it to China and other Asian economies. We don’t have any problem with that. After all, international trade is included in the title of Lund’s office. And experts predict U.S. coal exports to the Asian Rim will continue to grow in coming decades. The relatively clean coal of western Colorado ought to be a part of those exports.

For now, we applaud Scott’s continuing focus on the economic problems of this area. We urge him to continue pursuing ideas such as he has, especially those to bring new state offices to this region.


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The more reliant economies are on volatile commodities—and energy resources rank at the top there—the less stable it is and worse it performs over time, according to most of the studies I have seen.

Today’s Sentinel editorial (“Ray Scott keeps focus on West Slope economy”) endorses Charles Ashby’s report (“Economic development talks planned with state trade office”), but carefully avoids criticizing Scott’s self-admitted bias towards energy development.

Thus, Scott’s conceptually laudable initiative is fundamentally tainted ab initio, because he indulges the all-to-familiar false premise that:  “This is an energy-based economy, so that’s where we have to start”.

In fact, the Grand Valley’s (and thus House District 55’s and/or Senate District 7’s) real economy is not “energy-based” at all (although there may be opportunity for responsible expansion).

Rather, Fall 2013 employment data published by the Grand Valley Economic Partnership reveals that no energy developer ranked among the top 25 employers in the Grand Valley (although Halliburton did in 2004).  In 2009, the energy industry accounted for only some 3% of local employment – because of falling market prices, not “over-regulation”.

Thus, Scott is correct in admitting that his “ideas” may not be the “right ideas”, because
—unless they promote the market-driven diversification already (albeit anemically) under way – his singular focus on the energy sector could actually jeopardize that “progress”.

As the Sentinel rightly concurs, perhaps Scott’s best (but unoriginal) “idea” is to expand Colorado’s governmental presence on the Western Slope, both “as a way of helping stabilize the economies in some local communities and getting them closer to the local people they work with”. 

Of course, whenever Democrats propose such Keynesian notions, Republicans typically insist that “government can’t create jobs” – much less “stabilize economies”.

Therefore, Scott would have more credibility if he advocated repealing the Halliburton Exceptions to the Safe Drinking Water, Clean Water, and Clean Air Acts, and – in the midst of another unhealthy inversion – explain to his constituents why the oil and gas industry still deserves preferential treatment under those essential environmental laws.

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