Helena Magazine

City Council Update: The pitfalls of not growing

Published 1:04 am Wednesday, January 3, 2024

It’s a new year which means new opportunities to learn and grow together. This month, I wanted to use my council update to share some thoughts about when municipalities, like ours, choose not to pursue growth. Which I think would be a critical mistake. While it may be tempting to maintain the status quo, failing to grow can lead to a host of problems, both economic and social. I’d like to explore some of the pitfalls of this approach and why it is important for cities to embrace growth.

One of the primary reasons that municipalities must pursue growth is economic. Without growth, a city’s tax base remains stagnant, and can decline, leading to decreased revenue and limited resources for essential services like public safety, infrastructure maintenance and education. This can result in a vicious cycle where businesses and residents are deterred from moving to the area, further reducing revenue and resources. Moreover, cities that do not grow may struggle to attract new businesses, leading to a lack of job opportunities and increased economic stagnation such as what we have seen in some of our surrounding communities.

Another issue that arises when cities refuse to embrace growth is the potential for brain drain. Young people are often drawn to cities with vibrant economies and opportunities for growth. If a city fails to provide these opportunities and activities, young people are likely to leave in search of them elsewhere. This can lead to a loss of talent and energy, further perpetuating the cycle of decline.

In addition to the economic pitfalls of avoiding growth, there are also social consequences. Cities that do not grow may struggle to maintain their infrastructure and services, leading to a decline in the quality of life for residents. Without new investment, neighborhoods can become less desirable and crime rates may rise. Moreover, without growth, cities may struggle to provide sufficient services for their aging populations, leading to a decline in the overall health and well-being of residents.

Furthermore, cities that do not embrace growth may struggle to keep up with changing demographics. As populations shift and grow, cities must adapt to meet the needs of their residents. Failure to do so can lead to social and economic disparities, as some neighborhoods and populations are left behind while others thrive.

It is also important to note that growth does not have to mean sacrificing quality of life or natural resources. Some of Helena’s best assets are our natural resources and cities like Helena can and will pursue sustainable growth strategies that prioritize the health of the environment and the well-being of residents. By embracing new technologies and innovative approaches to development, cities can grow in a way that benefits everyone.

While it may be tempting for municipalities like ours to avoid growth, doing so can lead to a host of problems. Without growth, cities may struggle to maintain their economic and social vitality, leading to a decline in quality of life for residents. By embracing sustainable growth strategies as we have done, cities can ensure that they are well-positioned for the future, with a strong tax base, thriving businesses and a high quality of life for all residents.