A blueprint for growth on horizon

Task force to shape plan for economic development

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comJanuary 3, 2013 

City Council voted Wednesday to move forward with the drafting of a new economic development strategic plan.

The unanimous vote calls city staff to put together a task force of at least eight and possibly more than a dozen experts, who will steer the plan.

"As far as the strategic plan, it's kind of a cyclical process," Paula Fitzgerald, community development director, said. "It's something that needs to be evaluated and changed periodically."

The national, state and local economy has changed in the last several years. The plan is seen as a way to adapt to demands for government services like public safety while the city sees a reduction in sales and property taxes, business closures and cuts from state and federal funding.

The strategic plan would set the city's vision and goals for development. Typically, such a plan is set for a five-year period, Fitzgerald said.

"Economic development doesn't just happen," she said. "There definitely needs to be clear goals and strategies."

In order to get community support, Fitzgerald said, the task force should be made up of well-known members of the community.

Other economic news

Also during Wednesday's meeting, City Council directed staff to draft an extension of the 2012 ordinance that suspended Regional Transportation Impact Fees.

Hotly contested last year, the draft of an extension passed with a 4-1 vote. Councilwoman Elizabeth Stonegrove was the sole dissenting vote.

"If you take a look at the course of events that have transpired over the course of this year, the unraveling of our bypass project, no single action has done more to damage our chances," Stonegrove said.

The RTIF is paid by developers when they build a project in the county that will increase traffic levels. The money collected then goes into a Merced County Association of Governments, or MCAG, fund to be used for regional traffic projects, such as the Highway 152 bypass, the Atwater-Merced Highway and the Gustine Truck Route.

Since 2005, Los Banos has contributed $1.7 million of the overall $9.8 million in the county fund.

Councilwoman Deborah Lewis said local economic development should be placed above the Los Banos Bypass, a decades-old project with little movement.

"You can have a wonderful economic development program but chase your businesses away based on what you're going to charge them," Lewis said.

In related news, City Council appointed Stonegrove and Councilman Tom Faria to the Economic Development Advisory Committee for two more years.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.

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