TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES – Around a dozen citizens attended a public meeting on Tuesday night in Sierra County Commission Chambers, the first of three meetings intended to collect feedback across a range of issues that will be covered in the county’s Comprehensive Plan, including economic development, jobs, workforce development, housing, industry, and access to critical services.
Rick Draker of Draker Cody served as the meeting moderator, and provided a brief snapshot of the economy and demographics of the area before leading the group through a range of questions about the city and the region. The presentation will be uploaded to the County website soon.
Residents expressed appreciation for the Sierra County’s blue skies and wide open spaces, hunting and fishing opportunities, low prices, and a friendly community.
But they also lamented the dilapidated housing, empty storefronts, and lack of opportunity for youths and folks on public assistance to get good-paying jobs.
The topic of Spaceport America was briefly explored, and some residents expressed concern about the new southern road being built to Las Cruces, and countless hotels and other services. But some opportunities were identified too, such as improving our schools, recreation, and other services to attract the workers and families who want to live a little closer to the launch facility. The general sense was that the Spaceport would “happen” eventually, it’s just a matter of when.
The proposed Copper Flat Mine came up several times, with near universal support expressed by residents in attendance. County Manager Bruce Swingle reported that the mine could produce over 1,000 construction jobs the first year, and a couple hundred for about ten years after that, and then the mine would close. Currently mired in environmental litigation, the mine’s fate should be known by the end of the year, when their permits expire.
This led Mr. Draker to remind the group that a diversified economy is best, as opposed to a single large employer.
Towards that goal, County Manager Swingle said that the County was working toward developing an industrial park near the airport to attract companies to build facilities associated with the Spaceport, among other enterprises.
The group agreed that while tourism is an important part of the local economy, much could be done to improve it. Ideas included:
- Better coordination of event marketing between the county, neighboring counties, and municipalities.
- Marketing to military bases
- Community-supported shuttle service to give visitors more exposure to all the region has to offer
- Coordinating special offers between different businesses to create packages
Folks offered up other ideas for potential economic improvements, including:
- Modern RV facilities capable of supporting the larger vehicles and more affluent clientele
- A truck stop and travel center by the interstate
- Light manufacturing
- Training and internships like what the hospital provides to create more skilled employees
The next two listening sessions will be held in Hillsboro and Winston:
- Thursday, Feb 9, at 5:30PM at the Hillsboro Community Center.
- Thursday, Feb 16, at 5:30PM at the Winston Community Center.