Letter | Jack Hommel: Verbal hurricane surrounds interchanges

The city sales tax increase that becomes effective Wednesday is partly going to be used to fund the two interchanges at Kingman Crossing and Rattlesnake wash.

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The city sales tax increase that becomes effective Wednesday is partly going to be used to fund the two interchanges at Kingman Crossing and Rattlesnake wash.

I cannot help but wonder at the hurricane of verbal activity regarding the two interchanges proposed for I-40 east of Kingman. An observer unfamiliar with Kingman might take this as a sign of planned growth and anticipated prosperity in the minds of the citizenry. Since I don’t live within the city, there are those who will pooh-pooh my thoughts. Nonetheless, I fail to see the logic of the staggering costs to the taxpaying citizenry for either or both, the Kingman Crossing interchange or the Rancho Santa Fe interchange. I particularly see little logic in the frail hope that either of these undertakings will miraculously revive Kingman’s moribund economy.

Of the two proposed interchanges, the Kingman Crossing interchange seems to be the only and nearly viable choice, what with KRMC voicing a willingness to foot a major portion of the cost.

There are several pertinent ifs to be examined in this respect. If the Kingman Airport Authority and Industrial Park were interested in and supportive of a vigorous business and financial dynamo, that facility would be a natural magnet for businesses and employers. As it stands now, the KAA seems to be determined to keep out and or drive away businesses and employers rather than courting them and working with the city government to make the airport the crown jewel in the financial engine of Kingman and Mohave County.

So, what justifies the creation of the Rancho Santa Fe interchange? Residential housing developments certainly cannot be the driver. The hoped-for influx of political refugees escaping California and bringing their massive load of equity capital and the expected tax revenue simply cannot provide an ongoing driver for the local economy. Only the sustained impetus and momentum of profitable businesses can provide the continuing economic base needed here in this beautiful county and city. I understand the fervent hope of the developers and contractors to see a repeat of the wonderfully prosperous economic bubble we all enjoyed a few years back. Certainly there is always the hope that, “if you build it, they will come,” but there has to be a much more attractive carrot to dangle before those would-be manufacturers and employers than the current morass of apathy and hostility that is the Kingman Airport Authority. If manufacturers offering better than basic labor jobs were persuaded to move to the Industrial Park, people would come and buy homes and raise kids and spend money feeding the economic engine, and employers would be paying taxes into the city and county coffers. If those manufacturing concerns and those employers were pursued and courted it could make the airport a real, honest-to-God industrial park, in fact as well as in name, and the dollars would flow into the economic hearts of both the city and the county.

The current drive to tax the citizenry and to spend lavish amounts of taxpayer money on projects of dubious justification is a real puzzlement. If the aim is to make Kingman more attractive to businesses, manufacturers, homeowners and the tourists as well, why not spend money on revitalizing and beautifying what is already in place? Accepting that KAA is a separate issue, take a look at what the Kingman Downtown Merchants Association has accomplished on a shoestring budget and a lot of dedicated energy and determination. There are many vacant business spaces in and around Kingman that could be refurbished and made attractive to small business entrepreneurs. These may be small revenue sources, but if granted some practical concessions, they might become large revenue sources. The deteriorating streets could be repaired and repaved and beautified. A major effort could and should, in my layman’s opinion, be put forth in an effort to capture the massive amount of tourist dollars that we see pass through Kingman daily without stopping. An excellent example of what can be accomplished with little money and a lot of ingenuity, is the tiny town of Seligman. This quirky icon, known as “The Heart of Route 66,” sees more revenue from tourist dollars than does Kingman. Why? Kingman has a much deeper and more interesting history than Seligman, but it seems that a less than half-hearted effort is made to attract the tourists. There are visitors from across both oceans coming here, with bulging pocketbooks and an eagerness to part with their money, to experience “The Old West,” and they see Kingman as just another pass-through with little to offer. Even the living ghost town of Oatman offers much more excitement to the tourist than does Kingman.

Kingman has a veritable goldmine of things to attract manufacturers, employers and businesses. There are very few places with more friendly and helpful people. There is major east-west interstate highway I-40, and U.S. north-south Highway 93 intersecting in Kingman along with the transcontinental railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe, plus an airport capable of handling large jet planes. That makes Kingman a potential major transportation hub. There is also a large low cost labor pool available to potential employers. There is a lot of low cost land to be had. There is a lot of already-developed industrial land and facilities sitting idle, awaiting occupants on the industrial park. There is a community college in place and ready to offer targeted education courses to improve the quality of the existing labor pool. In California, manufacturers and businesses are being taxed out of existence. Those businesses should be courted and persuaded to enjoy the benefits Kingman has to offer.

Having a corporate business background, I see much of the pool of assets in and around Kingman being allowed to wither away, underutilized and effectively wasted. If a corporation were to attempt to function in that fashion, CEOs would be sent packing and heads would roll. It saddens me to see this potential treasure allowed to languish rather than being a city others would try to emulate. I strongly urge all concerned to work together to make Kingman the brightest star in the sky of business success and prosperity.