The Herald Bulletin

February 27, 2014

Editorial: Let's hear benefits of foreign trips

The Herald Bulletin

---- — When elected officials travel outside their home boundaries, voters and taxpayers want to see results — whether it's a lasting partnership with another city or town or luring new jobs to the area.

We don't always see those results. And that becomes frustrating.

So taxpayer trepidation likely greets the announcement that Mayor Kevin Smith and Economic Development Director Greg Winkler are visiting Israel for a six-day mission to meet with companies. Among the planned stops are meetings with managers at Keter Group, which makes plastic consumer products, and Taditel, which produces automotive technology.

Most residents know that these trips — and this is the fourth foreign visit by Smith — won't yield immediate jobs announcements.

In general, and this applies to most foreign trips by elected officials throughout Indiana, there is a missing link between the trips and actual economic announcements. Anderson has been good in tying up loose ends for the public. But voters tend to be skeptical and view junkets as something written off by making visits to manufacturers with which relationships have already been forged.

The mayor's trip is being funded through revenue derived from the food and beverage tax. Even without direct property taxes going into the trip, residents still need to hear about this trip quickly.

It is up to Smith and Winkler, upon their return, to provide specific details to assure residents that this trip to Israel was one that benefited Anderson. Their work is important; economic development is critical here. But taxpayers will be skeptical until they see and hear of the results as soon as possible.

In summary Foreign trips by elected officials can be worthwhile for economic development but residents need details on the direct benefits.