Tourism Won’t Save Ashland

Tidings 6/25/2020

On May 19, the Ashland City Council approved a modified resolution that removes economic development, cultural activity, and sustainability from its Economic, Cultural, Tourism and Sustainability (ECTS) grants program, leaving only its tourism program funded with $80,000. While it is understandable that city councilors would seek to recover $150,000 from the grants program in a time of significant financial strain for city government, doubling-down on tourism at the expense of economic diversification in the middle of a global pandemic borders on insanity.

Ashland’s local economy is already too reliant on tourism. We should have heeded that warning bell in the devastating smoke seasons of 2017 and 2018. Now we find ourselves in a global health crisis that will likely not be resolved in the next fiscal year (along with projections of another worse than normal summer for wildfires). Tourism is not going to save Ashland.

The City Council should have sidelined the ECTS Grant process altogether for 2020 and replaced it with an $80,000 Innovation Grant. Fund the local entrepreneurs and creative organizations working to diversify our economic ecosystem. Only with substantial diversification will Ashland’s economy become robust and resilient enough to survive our future challenges.

Andrew Kenneth Gay, associate professor, Southern Oregon University

Ashland

Diversify or Economic Ecosystem

Diversify or Economic Ecosystem