Sending the wrong message is costly

There are two cases of economic development gone wrong in Ely. The first you likely are aware of, the second was disheartening to hear and unfortunately sad but true.
Steger Mukluks would like to expand in the Ely Business Park. But the company and the Ely city council have not been able to come to an agreement on the price of the lot.
One of the last remaining manufacturers in the area, Steger has carved out a successful niche in the outdoor footwear business. A month ago the company ran quarter-page ads looking for help. Sales are up and there’s not enough room at the inn.
So a local company goes back to the city council looking to acquire the land it thought it was on the road to purchasing. But instead of welcoming the opportunity to proceed with open arms, the council refuses to sell the land.
Hanging in the balance are jobs, additional tax revenues and the chance to have an expanding business retain its Ely presence.
We’d like to tell you why the council has refused to back down and do the right thing. Maybe they are getting bad advice. Maybe they don’t like the company. Maybe they’re not thinking straight.
It’s time to end this charade, sell or even give the land away and move forward.
The second case relates to the first. A prospective business owner inquired with the city to locate a small manufacturing business in the city limits.
First he asked to operate initially in a large garage in a residential area. Sorry, that wouldn’t work without a variance that may or may not be approved he was told.
Second he asked about buying a building on Sheridan Street so he can manufacture and sell his wares in the same location. Oh no, he was told, that wouldn’t be possible either. Unless he could find a way to purchase the former Wintergreen building. Again, zoning was the problem.
Third he asked about buying a lot in the Ely Business Park and building a plant. That seemed like the perfect solution he was told and it seemed a solution was found. But, the city has no lots to sell so he was out of luck again.
Jobs and tax base you’re offering? We have no options for you. Your best bet would likely be to look outside the city limits he was told.
If this sounds like a case where city government as a whole fails to walk the walk, we agree. You can’t say you want more jobs and more businesses here on one hand and throw up roadblocks on the other.
We can’t afford to lose any businesses at this point in time. The ones that are here and the ones looking to locate here are our future. Failure to work with business owners is not an option.