Law enforcement will be crucial to growth
In all of the English language, two words that have some of the most broad-reaching meanings are economic development. You here citizens cry for it, politicians tout it and business leaders ask for it.
But, in and of itself, the phrase is rather vague. What does it really mean? Well, that depends on who you ask and how you look at it. In simple terms, economic development means seeing positive changes in the community which promote growth and prosperity.
Most people will quickly tell you that jobs are the fundamental ingredient in economic development, and that would be correct - to an extent. But it takes much more to make it happen.
While not as tangible as jobs, economic development requires community pride. Few businesses locate in regions that are not positive and looking to move towards a bright future.
Economic development also requires patience and planning. Changes will not happen overnight and without the proper preparation the short-term gains will eventually fail to become long-term victories.
But one of the most overlooked factors that is vital to any economic development, and certainly Lawrence County's, is law enforcement.
Many people just presume that police catch criminals and that is it.
But the men and women in our law enforcement branches do far more than that. They provide the quality of life and security which companies seek. They provide the overall community atmosphere that is inviting to visitors and to potential businesses.
Unfortunately, Lawrence County is falling behind in in this aspect. The county now has two industrial parks, two port authority groups working toward economic development and numerous other entities looking to help the area grow.
However, until the county's law enforcement shortage is addressed it will continue to cast a shadow over the economic development potential.
Three banks have been robbed in the past few months, one of which was robbed twice. So far, only one person has been arrested.
Last year was one of the worst years in the county's history in terms of violent crimes. Seven violent deaths occurred in Lawrence County in 2004, each happening between August and October.
If we truly want our community to grow, we must find ways to provide the adequate police protection so residents feel safe. If that means the county or communities must look at cuts elsewhere, then so be it.
Now is the time to start thinking about making changes before it is too late.