Apparently $900,000 of taxpayer money doesn’t go very far in the economic development game.

That’s the sum paid to create 15 jobs and retain 15 more at five non-defense sector companies in Sierra Vista, according to a report aired Tuesday at a city council work session. City taxpayers kicked in about $200,000 and the Department of Defense contributed the remaining $700,000 toward the Sierra Vista Technical Assistance Program.

The program was rolled out in 2017 after the city secured two grants from the “Office of Economic Adjustment,” which is an agency under the DOD. Funding was awarded to help Sierra Vista’s economy after significant staff cutbacks at Fort Huachuca. At the time, Mayor Rick Mueller remarked that while it was great to receive such a large grant, he wasn’t very pleased that it required a failing local economy to qualify for the funds.

What’s the first thing Sierra Vista did with the money? Hire a consultant, of course.

The city retained Sun Corridor, an economic development group based in Tucson that focuses on southeastern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. The consulting firm was hired to help companies seeking to expand their operations in areas not tied to the defense sector. Tony Boone, the city’s economic development director, said Sun Corridor and the technical assistance program would advise local companies on how to diversify and expand their businesses with expertise in marketing, sales, accounting and other areas.

All that expertise and two years of effort have resulted in 15 new jobs while retaining another 15 jobs that apparently would have been eliminated if not for the program.

Pardon us if we were expecting a bigger bang for the buck.

We would appreciate a serious review of this program and its outcome by our elected city council members and Mayor Mueller. A list of the five “non-defense sector” companies would be a start and the precise services rendered by Sun Corridor is a good follow-up question. Council members have a responsibility to report a full accounting for these funds, regardless of where the money originated.

From our vantage point, it might have been smarter to pay 30 people $30,000 and eliminate all the bureaucracy and “consulting” that has consumed two years of city staff time.

It’s time for council members to step up.

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