In reference to last Tuesday’s article on the Zamias (mall) Fund, I sincerely appreciate the mayor’s forthright political wit to first “call for a moratorium on appropriations from the fund” and then, within the same interview, advocate for spending in the Northwest residential neighborhood — a project near and dear to his heart. In this vein, I agree with the mayor that it should not be used solely for “pet projects.”
Rather, given the original intent of the fund, Zamias should concentrate on supporting, attracting and creating businesses and jobs throughout downtown and across the city. In this regard, it should maximize direct and indirect return on investment, leverage capital for Rutland City business development, and promote public-private partnerships that create targeted zones (or clusters) of economic impact. These zones can then be linked through other strategic means as a way to create district or citywide revitalization.
The money should not be left in a money market account for nearly a decade earning less than a half of a percent interest. And the money should not simply go to residential neighborhoods. That’s what the Department of Public Work’s budget is for. Leave and use Zamias for business. Use the bulk of the public works budget for residential development.
Of course, I am truly honored and thankful that the mayor thought it important enough to single out the West Street project currently under construction. Although I would like to take full credit for the project, I cannot. Many from the Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Aldermen, and various leading members within the mayor’s own administration see the value in complementing a $17 million investment at the city’s core economic gateway.
By building off sustainable development — a piece of an economic development strategy I call “leveraged investment initiative” — the city not only stretches taxpayer resources and minimizes risk, it makes a loud, highly visible marketing statement to the whole world that “if you invest in Rutland, Rutland will invest in you.”
Quite possibly the effect of such a statement is indirect, but the nature of the work on West and Church, done in partnership with the city’s public schools, is tangible. Now when approaching the city’s most traveled economic gateway, the new “Welcome to Historic Downtown” sign truly has meaning for all businesses, tourists and residents alike. What a great first impression.
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