My Point of View: Whose job is it anyway to create jobs in Albert Lea?
Published 9:54 pm Monday, May 22, 2017
My Point of View by Brian Hensley
Over the past four years, when local and county officials were running for office, I heard repeatedly how the No. 1 issue is jobs. But what really can a politician do to create jobs? We all have more of a direct impact than we may realize on this issue locally than we do at the state and federal levels of government.
The first thing a local government entity can do is expand government. If the entity increased taxes, hired more city or county workers, spent more on infrastructure that would expand jobs. That is typically not the approach that is discussed because no new economic stimulus is added to the area. Simply taking more taxes from some in the community and handing over to others doesn’t expand the economy. No new economic activity was created. If we are spending state money, that might have a short-term effect, but we are taking from another part of the state to expand our economy. Eventually that area will take from us to expand their economy.
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When jobs being created are talked about, it’s often meant not taxpayer-supported jobs, but business. Next, the caveat “good-paying jobs” is always added. Who can argue with that. We want great-paying jobs in Freeborn County. But how are those created? Who creates them.
The answer is simple, but extremely difficult to do.
Businesses either move from their current location, local businesses expand or new businesses are started. All three require a private citizen or group of citizens to take their money, or risk their future money, and make something happen.
It is extremely difficult for a business to move from their current location to Freeborn County. Think of how hard it is for a family to move from one place to another. Starting new jobs, finding a new home, moving your personal belongings, leaving friends and maybe family, making new friends and even simple things like where to shop, or which parks to visit are difficult. It’s the same for a business. Finding a new location, hiring a new workforce or requiring your current workforce to move. Finding new suppliers, learning the new regulations and laws, adapting to different taxes and systems. To move your business a large distance is extremely risky and very hard to make happen.
A second way for new jobs to be created in Freeborn County is for local businesses to expand. If you are running a current business and your products and services are being purchased, expansion is still difficult and risky but likely to happen. If the business is profitable and seeing more demand for your business, the choice to hire more employees, expand your building or increase the wages of your employees if they can produce more becomes likely.
The final way for new jobs to be created is for entrepreneurs to take the risk and start a new business. The risks are extreme for this step for the person starting the business, but probably the greatest for the city. If new businesses start, if capital is created, if jobs are created here, so many positive things start happening in the area. But that’s a lot of “ifs.” Starting, creating and growing a new businesses is the long-term play for the area and its residents.
So why do politicians talk about creating new jobs? Because it’s what we as the voters want to hear. It’s also hard to hold them accountable. Did they create new jobs? They will take credit if they are created, and find lots of excuses if they aren’t.
What local leaders and politicians can do is create the right environment for job creation. Solid infrastructure that can handle businesses’ water and electrical needs are required for new growth. Low taxes will make Freeborn County competitive to retain and attract businesses. We don’t have to be the lowest, but our area cannot be at one extreme or the other either. We must educate our students to become great citizens and productive employees. Leaders can help developers, entrepreneurs and business owners understand the way the community’s zoning and regulations work, and show them that Albert Lea and Freeborn County are open for business.
What can we do as citizens? Shop local. Support businesses that are already located in Freeborn County. Be a positive advocate for Albert Lea and Freeborn County. Be the best employee for your current employer, so they can grow and expand and have the option to create jobs that maybe can keep our family members in the area. Become more educated in a needed skill set. Constantly expand your ability to use new technology. Encourage friends and families to stay or locate in Freeborn County. Become involved in volunteer boards, civic groups and attend meetings on topics that interest you. Be open-minded to other opinions as about how to improve our community. Learn lessons from other communities.
Everyone is busy and would rather do other things, but if job creation and economic development in Freeborn County is important to your family, you must make the issue a priority. This is our community. A few leaders in the city or county won’t be the ones that direct our future. We must.
Brian Hensley is former chairman of the Freeborn County Republican Party and local financial adviser with Intego Financial Group. He also serves on the city of Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Board. All opinions are his and do not necessarily reflect those of the organizations he is associated with.