Rowland’s approach is wrong for business
The Fruit and Wine Byway arose from an intense collaboration between the wineries and orchards that anchor the burgeoning agri-tourism industry near Palisade and local government entities.
It serves as a great example of an economic development strategy that delivered tangible results, including more vehicle and bicycle traffic on the roads near Palisade. More traffic equals more sales opportunities for wineries and produce vendors, which means more sales tax revenue for Mesa County.
If that increase in traffic causes any problems, former Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland thinks the businesses that championed the byway should bear the cost of fixing them. In a recent letter to the editor, she called for the county to decline funding improvements for 38 Road, a steep and winding section of the byway with a slightly higher accident rate than other county roads.
If the current commissioners share Rowland’s view on this matter, they’ve done a good job of keeping it to themselves. The road was already included on the county’s list of capital improvements and will go to bid this fall. Rowland’s stance has no practical bearing on the matter, but lends us the opportunity to comment on the role of government in economic development.
Local governments play a key role in land-use policy and providing common infrastructure — things like roads, water and sewer. Infrastructure improvements that help businesses flourish should be a priority because they stimulate economic growth and have a built-in payback. Rowland seems content to let government pawn off this responsibility onto business owners, which is the antithesis of a pro-business environment.
Why Rowland felt the need to weigh in on this matter is beyond us. She’s not running for office. Furthermore, it’s not even clear that the 38 Road deficiencies are the direct result of the byway. Whether the byway had come into existence or not, that section of the road would likely have needed widening purely for safety reasons, making Rowland’s stance not only wrongheaded but punitive.
Erecting signs along the byway involved the cooperation of the Colorado Association of Viticulture and Enology, Colorado State University, the town of Palisade, Mesa County, the Colorado Department of Transportation, orchards, vineyards and other business owners.
If anything, we need more collaborations like this — not regressive thinking that stymies economic growth.