Dear MV Chamber Board members:
I am writing to express concern about a disturbing trend that seems to be gaining traction in the Moapa Valley community. Carried to its final fruition, this trend would hurt our valley’s long-term economic prospects and squelch important growth opportunities for local small businesses. I thus would urge you to take a forward position in reversing this trend and providing visionary leadership to a more productive and positive route on behalf of the small businesses that you represent.
As a local small business owner and Chamber member, I fully subscribe to your mission statement. I applaud the Chamber’s primary aims of making this community “a better place to live and to do business.” There is no debating that the community is a wonderful place to live. But the fact is, over the past 10 years, it has proven a very difficult place to do business.
Growth in the community, has been nearly stagnant since the Great Recession hit in 2008. As you know, a near-zero growth rate is absolutely brutal on small-town businesses. In recent years, local businesses in nearly every sector have fought to stay alive. Many have failed. Those of us who have endured have not had it easy. To survive, we have been forced to tighten our belts near to the breaking point, just hoping to hold out until times get better. We are still holding on, and still hoping!
Fortunately, over the past year or so, a few glimmers of hope have begun to break on the horizon. The regional economy has slowly improved. Fuel prices have remained low. The employment picture has brightened. The real estate market has returned. Most importantly, the potential for major industrial development along the I-15 northeast corridor has provided a sense of cautious optimism. Local business owners with vision recognize that this proposed industrial corridor could put Moapa Valley in an ideal central spot to offer a premium quality lifestyle to a segment of high earning young professionals looking to relocate their families to the area. This would provide long-awaited relief to our struggling local business sector.
Of course, real estate developers also recognize these opportunities. Having long ago made major investments in Moapa Valley land, they are now coming back with hopes of finally making a return on those investments. Some have even begun to present early plans for relatively modest residential projects, specifically designed to meet the needs of young professionals and their families. One developer is actually scheduled to hold a neighborhood meeting on one such project: the Logandale Mesas; on Monday evening, May 15.
It is the disturbing response to these modest development plans, from certain members of the community, that gives reason for concern. After scratching through the perils of a ‘no-growth’ economy for nearly a decade now, I am surprised that the first glimmers of long-awaited growth have met with such fierce and emotional opposition. Worse still, this outcry seems not to be based on a desire for compromise, or upon seeking a positive outcome for all parties. Rather it is often intent upon overlooking free property rights and forcing a stop to any planned development at all costs; simply because it would disturb the quiet status quo.
Of course, change is always uncomfortable. But maintaining the status quo of no growth (or even slow growth) is simply not sustainable over the long term. A tightly restricted growth policy will, over time, kill off what little is left of our local commercial sector. Indeed, we have witnessed the slow death of commerce in Moapa Valley for a nearly decade now. It is in trouble and won’t hold out forever. And, as the commercial sector falls, so falls the community.
Sadly, the measured voice of local small business has been almost absent in the public discourse up to now. Small business owners who would be most adversely affected by a ‘no (or slow) growth’ policy, have for some reason chosen to remain silent; allowing this vocal opposition to growth to rule the conversation. But this crucial moment in our community’s history is no time to remain silent!
This issue should be a no-brainer for the Chamber of Commerce. A healthy rate of growth in the community is absolutely imperative to the success of the Chamber and its members. Well-planned growth should be an integral part of accomplishing the Chamber’s mission statement.
New homes, new families, new points of view and new business opportunities would certainly not hurt the quality of life that your mission statement seeks to uphold. Rather these things would improve and enrich our community. And there can be no doubt that an influx of new residents with good jobs and stable incomes would also make Moapa Valley a better place to do business. Supporting, nurturing, establishing and guiding a healthy local growth rate should be top priority for the Chamber.
Of course, no one is suggesting that we allow developers and investors to run roughshod over town. No one wants to allow a dense, urban, mini-Las Vegas to spring up here in this beautiful rural valley that we love. That is out of the question!
But we must be open to new residential development that accommodates a broad spectrum of economic and social classes; even if it looks different than neighborhoods currently existing in town. After all, not everyone is able to afford a custom home on an acre of land. And not everyone wants to.
Furthermore, housing density alone is not a full measure of the quality of a development. When carefully planned and sensitively executed, even a residential neighborhood of 3-4 units per acre can indeed harmonize well with surrounding areas of lower density – and can still maintain the ‘rural’ look and feel that is held up as an ideal in this community. Furthermore, with the classification of growth that is likely coming, these smaller home lots would be just the type of residential property in highest demand; and that are currently in shortest supply.
As that regional demand increases, developers will come with plans to meet that demand. We should not fear them, nor cast blanket aspersions upon them; merely because they are seeking a return on their long-held investments. Rather the community must engage with them from the beginning. We must be constructively involved in the planning process with them. We must express reasonable wishes and be willing to negotiate acceptable solutions. Above all, this planning process must provide for a vibrant and healthy growth rate in Moapa Valley well into the future.
There is a strong need for forward-looking leadership on behalf of local small businesses. We local business owners look to the Chamber for that. A balance must be struck between those who would tightly restrict growth and those of us who desperately need it to make a living. Currently there has been no such balance in the community dialog. It ought to be the Chamber’s role to facilitate that.
For this reason, I strongly urge the Chamber board, and all of its general membership, to come forward boldly and take a sensible and constructive stand on the issue of future growth. Learn the details of the complex issues involved and avoid emotional responses to them. Engage with our County Commissioner, Town Advisory Board members, land developers and other members of the community to help drive the dialog in a business-friendly direction.
The decisions made in the coming months and years could well determine what the Moapa Valley will be when it grows up. There are many that would prefer that it never grow up. But grow up it will. And trying to stifle or impair that growth in favor of some ideal of status quo, would be a dim prospect for our commercial sector and the long-term prospects of the entire community.
Chamber Board, this is your moment; your chance to shine! Stand up and be counted! Rally your membership to speak out now for the interests and needs of the local business community. Otherwise, by the time you finally engage, it may be too late.
Moapa Valley PROGRESS