Our View: Economic success isn't for granted

September 30, 2009 

In order to build a stronger economy, it's important to be honest about the present economy. What are our strengths and weaknesses? What are the threats to our prosperity - and our opportunities for a brighter future?

A volunteer group is going to look for answers. What they find will help chart the course of Vision for the Valley, a community project designed to help position the Valley to rebound as the national economy recovers.

Of all the work done by the Vision volunteers, this review of the economy is an urgent, important starting point.

Known in technocratic jargon as a "SWOT" analysis - for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats - this study represents a reality check. When the Valley's economy grew robustly, over an almost uninterrupted two-decade boom, it was easy to conclude that all was healthy. There was less urgency attached to taking a candid look at our local economy and making objective comparisons to other regions.

The current, prolonged recession changes everything. It intensifies the competition to retain jobs and recruit employers. We need the best, most unflinchingly honest information available.

The Vision project, launched on the Statesman editorial page in August 2008, has been predicated in candid conversations about where we stand and where we are headed. We have had the chance to bring together leaders from business, schools, nonprofits and government, and residents from across the Valley.

Yes, considerable optimism has helped to fuel the Vision project, which helps explain why more than 50 people attended an organizational meeting Monday afternoon. (And if you're interested in volunteering, just send an e-mail to vision@idahostatesman.com.) But optimism and realism aren't mutually exclusive. In this economic climate, our Valley needs a combination of both.

A diverse and vibrant economy will support everything on the Vision for the Valley to-do list - such as expanding the successful "Born Learning" program that prepares kids for kindergarten, or funding a campaign to encourage breast cancer screenings, or providing continued support to the Valley's arts community. We can't afford to take economic success for granted. We simply have too much riding on getting it right.

And on asking the right questions.

And on getting the answers as quickly as possible.

"Our View" is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman's editorial board.

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