More smiles

Published 11:26 pm Sunday, September 9, 2007

By Staff
Darwin Woolard, Washington’s mayor pro tempore, and others are smiling more these days. They are seeing steel, bricks and mortar when it comes to projects in Washington instead of blueprints and site plans.
The rehabilitation of the Turnage Theaters complex is nearing its end. Construction of the Buoy Tender Station residential development is moving along at a fast pace. The Moss Landing project, with its villas and townhouses, continues to take form. Ayers Lane, one of the downtown alleys, is getting a makeover.
Although not everyone supports some of the development projects either under way or proposed in the city, Woolard and other area residents are overjoyed to see these projects progressing. They believe these initial projects will usher in an extended period of prosperity for the city.
Moss Landing, Buoy Tender Station and an open and functioning Turnage Theaters complex will help bring economic development to Washington. They will help increase the city’s tax base, which should result in the tax burden of Washington residents and property owners being eased. They should bring several new jobs to the city.
One can argue some, if not many, of those jobs won’t pay high wages. There’s no doubt that high-wage jobs would be better for the city than low-wage jobs. But low-wage jobs do provide employment and do help put food on some people’s tables.
And while city officials are supporting projects such as Moss Landing and the Turnage Theaters complex, they also should be looking for other economic-development opportunities. Finding ways for existing industries and businesses to expand should be a priority. And it appears that is the case.
The city supports expansion of Carver Machine Works, even thought it is not in the city. But that expansion bodes well for the city and county. The new jobs the expansion will create will add to the city’s economic-development equation. Some of those new jobs will be filled by people already living and working in the city or county. But some of those new jobs likely will be filled by people who move to the city or county.
The people working in those new jobs, be they newcomers or natives, no doubt will pay taxes and spend money in the city or county, sometimes in both. With an expanded Carver Machine Works, area enterprises that sell supplies or provide services to the industry will have opportunities to grow their bottom lines. That will be good for the area’s economy.
While the debate over how much the city should be paid for the former Hamilton Beach property — now occupied by Impressions Marketing Group — continues, keep in mind that enabling Impressions to remain in Washington and add 120 new jobs to the area will improve the area’s economy.
Seeing projects and proposals transform from ideas and drawings into foundations, walls and roofs should make people smile if those foundations, walls and roofs result in a greater good for the community. But before those foundations, walls and roofs go up, there must be assurances they are appropriate and will benefit the community. And there is no reason why new development and preservation and/or enhancement of existing structures and quality of life can’t happen at the same time.
Many people visit Washington to see its historic homes and buildings. The city’s historic structures have value. So do new development projects. Finding the right mix of the two will help the city prosper. Don’t forget that at one time those historic buildings were not historic structures but new ones.
There is no reason why preservation can’t be a key part of economic development. It can and should happen — and bring smiles to a lot of people’s faces.