By Emmett Dulaney
For The Herald Bulletin
I owe someone an apology. In actuality, there is probably more than one person I owe an apology to, but at the present time the only person I can think of is Jacob Dodson.
In November of 2009, I gave a writing assignment to a sophomore-level economics class, and Dodson was in that class. The assignment was somewhat convoluted by an attempt to incorporate topics that we had discussed thus far in the semester, but the gist of it boiled down to this: imagine there is only one job available and everyone is competing for it. The job is that of the economic development director of Anderson and in order to be considered a serious candidate, you have to outline your proposed agenda in 1,000 words. What would you write?
Dodson’s paper, of which space only allows me to quote a portion of it, included this: “I believe one of the ways we can initially entice people to move to our community is to build a reservoir. Anderson has a large amount of farmland, both near our I-69 exit and in the north side near State Road 32. I propose we develop this land, with the feature attraction being a reservoir. Both Geist and Monroe are overcrowded and have huge property values; if we could present an alternative with a minimal commute time we could attract new building and a higher property value, which in turn will increase our tax intake.”
His proposal, very similar to what the CED later termed Project Oasis, focused on developing land within the area that is not currently being used by the busiest road in town, home to 400 houses that will need to be torn down, the site of two former landfills, and so on. Without my needing to go into more details than that, you can no doubt understand why he received a “C” for his effort.
Reminiscing on this encouraged me to go back to the papers turned in that semester, three and a half years ago, and comb through them for other gems that may now be eligible for feasibility studies. There were a number of them that talked about the usual things: reducing taxes within the county and adding additional financial assistance. The possibility of a theme park was brought up — weakly reflecting a proposal Gary Hoover made many years earlier. Some of the proposals brought up suggestions that were outside the mission, or definition, of economic development, while others focused on bringing in higher-end retailers to the empty warehouses and factories: imagining the atmosphere possible by putting a Hollister-type store in an old factory building. None of the proposals, however, were as different as Dodson’s and I’ll use a portion of his last paragraph to close:
“While we need sweeping changes in a variety of areas, we are well positioned to grow, and have a strong competitive advantage against our competing counties. This plan however no doubt will face controversy. We will be leveraging ourselves until such time that our growth compensates for our added expenses …” He was thinking ahead of the time, and probably should have gotten a “C+”.
Emmett Dulaney is the author of several books on technology and an Anderson resident. His column appears Tuesdays.