Feb 222012

By Linda Kor —

Members of the Holbrook Business Development Group (HBDG) met in a work session with the city council Feb. 14 to provide council members with some insight to the organization and discuss ways that the two entities can work together.

Matthew Barger, president of HBDG, explained that the group of volunteers was organized to assist the city, chamber of commerce and the citizens of Holbrook in taking advantage of future opportunities that will contribute to the growth and prosperity of the community.

The council suggested that a collaborative effort take place between HBDG and the city to provide information and support for entities interested in expanding or adding businesses to the community.

Following the meeting, City Manager Ray Alley provided his opinion of the group. “This is an exciting time, and this group has good leaders and insight…I think they’re doing great work for the city,” he commented.

Mayor Jeff Hill added his support for HDBG following the work session, stating that he was very impressed with the group as a whole. “This is a well-rounded group comprised of the best the city has to offer, the best anywhere,” he said.

Hill also added that he felt it was important for the public to understand the difference between the role of city government and the role of private business. “The city supports business and the community by providing infrastructure, and safety through local law enforcement. It’s up to the citizens to create and expand business, not the city,” said the mayor. He cited the recent improvements to roads, wells and water tank maintenance as evidence that the city is working to accommodate any upcoming growth that may take place.

According to Hill, in order to ensure that the city is in line with any new growth that may occur over the next several years, they will be looking to include a salary for a city planner either in this next budget year or the following year.

When asked what he anticipated in the way of growth due to the impending potash mining operations, Hill stated that while no one on the council is against growth, he cautions that a mining operation may not bring the large influx of people that some may expect. “The construction phase for the mines will bring in a lot of people, but after the construction phase, what do we do?” he asked.

Hill believes that in order to accommodate the temporary construction workers, the best option is to utilize existing lands or facilities. One consideration being made by the city is to lease out city-owned land, such as the old Northland Pioneer College campus on Hermosa Drive, to businesses wanting to create a travel trailer park or temporary camping site. “We have land to offer, but speaking for myself and not the council, I don’t want to sell any more city lands,” he said.

Hill takes a cautious approach to growth, believing that the mining industry will bring some more families into Holbrook but more than anything, it will provide an improved quality of life. “When the dust settles, I think we’ll see some increase in population, but not enough to totally make over the city. We won’t be seeing a Fashion Square Mall going up in Holbrook, but I do see us getting an improved quality of life due to quality jobs,” he commented.

According to the economic assessment presented by American West Potash, one of three entities moving forward with mining projects in the Holbrook Basin, the plant and mine construction phase for that operation is expected to last approximately one and a half years and generate approximately 800 jobs spread out through the construction. Following construction, it’s estimated that there will be approximately 400 full-time positions for that operation alone.

Hill does believe that this will be an opportunity for business owners to improve or expand their businesses. “We’ll provide what we can to support business such as infrastructure and police, but business needs to develop itself,” he reiterated.

While the city plans for growth through infrastructure, HBDG is working to connect opportunities for new and existing businesses, and to promote public awareness. One way the group is doing this is through a public forum scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 29, at the George Gardner Performing Arts Center in Holbrook that will feature speakers Pat Avery, CEO of American West Potash, and Josh Bleak, CEO of Passport Potash. Both company leaders will provide insight into their projects and answer questions presented by the public.

Future endeavors by HBDG will include additional forums and the development of a website that will include a compilation of information pertaining to opportunities in the community, as well as the progression and expansion of Holbrook.