More details will follow later, but the instructive parts of this story have been available for some time now, and there's more to this than just a greedy man getting caught with his hands in the till.
Economic problems that plague our rural areas are unique and extremely difficult to address. There simply isn't enough capital already in place to generate the type of growth that could end up being self-sustaining, which is why the federal government created and funds various programs to invest in those areas. Sometimes these efforts succeed, and sometimes they fail, but that's the nature of business. And for many communities, these programs may be their last chance:
Eloy’s post-war economy adjusted to the change in the cotton economy and the city has grown steadily. In 2001, however, a major job loss resulted in a spike in unemployment to 14.7% by 2010, almost twice the national average of 7.9%. Today, Eloy’s historic downtown is dominated by vacant buildings
surrounded by large, empty lots.
The lagging local economy, large fixed costs associated with starting a new business, and a lack of business training was an obstacle to the successful entrance of new businesses to Eloy. The City decided the best resource they could provide local entrepreneurs was to create a business incubator in the downtown area that would provide affordable office space for lease as well as business training and counseling.
To create the business incubator, the City partnered with the Holmes Family Trust and USDA. Holmes Family Trust, managed by descendants of one of Eloy’s first residents, owned most of the downtown buildings and donated the large, old post office building for redevelopment as a business incubator.
USDA provided a $99,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to the City for renovations on the historic building, and the Holmes Family Trust matched the USDA grant. After the financing for the redevelopment of the building was secured, the City established a partnership with Central Arizona College which runs business development centers throughout the state. They now provide training and support to the tenants of the new Eloy business incubator.
The newly renovated historic downtown building, officially named Eloy Business Center, has eight office spaces. The building is equipped with modern amenities that all tenants share. Tenants have access to WiFi, a fax machine, a copier machine, and meeting space. The Eloy Business Center rents out the office space to local businesses at affordable prices to promote business growth. In addition, Central Arizona College offers one-on-one confidential counseling at no cost to the small business tenants. The counseling covers many topics such as financial planning, marketing, feasibility studies, and strategic planning.
There are many other case studies to look at, but a very common core element has to do with partnering. Between the government, charitable groups and non-profits. These partnerships represent more than just groups who decide to come together on particular projects; it's a formula, in which each element provides structural integrity. The federal government's involvement ensures continuity of the project and a certain level of integrity, and many of these private-sector partners will not engage without that government element.
The reason I stressed that last part is to demonstrate the far-reaching effect selfish and corrupt behavior like former Representative LaRoque engaged in could have. Not only did he betray the trust of his neighbors by taking money that should have been injected into the community, he has put the very process of rural development loans in jeopardy. And if those loans dry up, it's very likely the partners will also step back, and the people who live in our rural areas will pay the price.
I might be able to forgive LaRoque for being a greedy bastard, but I can't forgive him for so casually putting the entire system of rural development at risk.