A November 2, 2007 story in the Argus Observer about an unnamed “big company” exploring a move into Ontario kicked off a lengthy debate among readers about the apparent problems caused when people who work and shop in Ontario decide to live just across the river in Idaho. A major contributor to that debate is Ray Dickerson of the Ontario High class of 1956. To read the full debate follow our link to the Argus Observer home page and, scroll down to the blogs and click on the “Big company” entry.
On November 10 Ray wrote:
In a free market society some businesses succeed and others do not. Wal-Mart’s strategy is to locate in small communities and suck the life out of them all the way back to Wall Street and Arkansas. They sucked the life out of the Ontario Mall and most of the main streets within 25 miles. Home Depot is doing the same thing to the hardware and building supply houses. These companies and many more like them do market research and will locate here when it looks like they may get a suitable return on investments for their stock holders. You can’t just call them up and say locate here in Ontario because I don’t like driving 45 miles to shop or having to pay the six cent sales tax. If you and 10,000 others were to do so, you might get some action. If you check around the state of Oregon, you will see a number of border towns just like Ontario. They are commercial hubs for the residents of the neighboring states that have sales taxes, like we are for Western Idaho. But that is not the only reason: Oregon’s land-use regulations have made it extremely difficult to develop residential property since they were passed in 1973, and generally has made housing more expensive and difficult to build in Oregon than in the neighboring states. This not living where you work and the associated travel back and forth through these border communities impacts the infrastructure negatively. It also causes increased police work associated with traffic, accidents, crime, and the list could go on and on. Certainly another area that is impacted is the schools. Without new residential development there is little interest or support for improving schools, when the majority of those families wanting modestly priced housing elect to live across the border. The Oregon Legislature knows what they’re doing and the impact their decisions have on the border communities but they don’t care, because we’re not their power-base. They also fail to provide funding to the affected communities to offset the imbalance. Therefore, when Mike Allen, and many others say they don’t want more commercial growth they do so with a complete understanding of the situation, not that they are wanting to deny anybody a place to shop. I don’t know what kind of business is shopping to locate in Ontario and it really does not matter, because most of the employees will choose to live in Idaho, shop in Ontario, travel through the community, have no vested interest in Ontario, and the cycle that happened when SRCI came to town will be repeated. That is the way it is and the way it will stay.