Letter to the Editor: Economic development must come from new sources

Last Tuesday, October 9th, I had occasion to attend meetings of the Upper Rio Grande Economic Development Council and the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable. My attendance was prompted because I’m involved in both economic development and the deliberations and actions of the RGBRT. I spoke briefly at both meetings, and believe your readers might be interested in what I said. Here’s the gist of my statements: I expressed to both groups my principal concern regarding the economy of the San Luis Valley in Colorado: The contribution of the agriculture industry to the economy of the San Luis Valley has reached a maximum. The industry will be severely limited for the foreseeable future by the amount of water available for crop irrigation. It is almost certain there will be no significant long term increase in primary ag economic output here; in fact, because of requirements for aquifer restoration and the likely deepening of our drought, ag economic output in the Valley will probably decrease. As a direct result, any significant increase/improvement of the SLV economy will have to come from industries, businesses, and/or endeavors outside of the agriculture industry. To longtime farmers and water managers of the Basin, that idea is probably not news. They have been struggling hard, and with considerable success, for many years to enhance agricultural production in the face of decreasing water availability. To a sizable number of our residents, economic improvement is of little concern. They are financially “well off” and care little about our economic status. But for most of us, growing our economy is a matter of the utmost concern – for our present happiness, and for the future wellbeing of our families and communities. The bottom line is this: non-agricultural business development should be not just a matter of concern and discussion over the kitchen table and in our many related meetings; it should become the primary goal of all our business development and water-related activities. Further, although recreation and tourism are helpful supplements to our economic improvement, they are almost certainly not enough. We must develop new and different businesses in the Valley. Charles Spielman Monte Vista