Five of the seven mayoral candidates named supporting business or growing the economy as a high priority, and developing a vision and sustainable practices for the city was a distant second.

Nearly all of the candidates for Ashland's mayor named the economy as one of their top three priorities in a Tidings survey.

Five of the seven mayoral candidates named supporting business or growing the economy as a high priority, and developing a vision and sustainable practices for the city was a distant second.

The candidates' recommended paths to a thriving business sector vary greatly, however, with each suggesting Ashland needs to focus on attracting a different subgroup.

Jenifer Carr envisions a "Kitchen Cabinet" of young professionals working with the mayor to attract more of their generation.

"We must establish the means to not only keep our young people in town, but to develop opportunities to attract young families to Ashland," she said.

She also favors exploring the possibility of enterprise zones or other means of attracting retail, light manufacturing and technology.

Peter Gross wants to create a 365-day economy based on Ashland's 2007 Economic Opportunity Analysis, which identified factors affecting future economic growth; national, state, regional and local trends; and industrial and employment land needs. He would like to create jobs to increase local food and energy production.

"None of these things will happen overnight, but the sooner we get started the sooner we will achieve whatever goals we set," he said.

Steve Hauck plans to fill holes in the local economy through what he calls "import substitution" or "economic infill" — attracting companies with services that existing businesses currently must seek outside of the city limits.

The connection between the city and businesses "should be a collaborative relationship that links economic development to strategic planning," he said. "This relationship should extend beyond downtown to the other business areas in town, including home-based businesses."

Clean industry sectors such as technology, software and professional services are the key new investments for George Kramer, in addition to supporting existing business as much as possible.

"Government can create a supportive environment for business by assuring quality workers, an attractive community and a well-run system that is 'knowable' and predictable, including an efficient land-use process that encourages investment that meets agreed-upon community goals," he said.

John Stromberg aims to lure more visitors, more often, by supporting the Shakespeare-based economy, paired with more sustainability initiatives to make Ashland a demonstration sustainable city.

"I believe cultivating our relationship with long-time repeat visitors is the key," he said.

Creating those ties with visitors would include finding alternate modes of transportation to bring them to Ashland, coordinating with groups such as Southern Oregon University and ScienceWorks for education and conferences and developing a promotion plan for tourism.

While Art Bullock and Tom Frantz did not name economic development in their top three priorities, both included ideas about shoring up the city's economy.

Bullock said any major decisions or changes to taxes should be determined by a city-wide majority vote. Proper land-use planning, limited administrative ordinances and lower fees and taxes are key to supporting economic development, he said.

"Economic research shows that the number-one action local governments can take to support business development is not to subsidize them with tax breaks, subsidy payments or financial incentives," he said. "It's to limit regulations and increases in taxes and fees that burden businesses."

Frantz said his main priority is improving transportation, parking and pedestrian safety, along with supporting merchants and city staff by simply allowing them to do their jobs well.

"There are some great people in place in the [city] departments, and they need to be respected for their expertise in various fields they work in every day," he said.

Sustainability and vision

Frantz's top priorities align with the other major theme in candidates' priorities, that of making Ashland a more sustainable place and creating a vision for the future.

Frantz supports seeking state and federal grant money to reduce congestion and increase safety to implement ideas such as 20-minute shuttles and a comprehensive transportation plan.

Art Bullock did not offer suggestions specifically about sustainability or vision, instead focusing on the will of the people to set major policy and plans for the future.

John Stromberg's vision to make Ashland a demonstration sustainable city includes creating a supportive environment for sustainable businesses, programs and service providers.

George Kramer identified building a shared community vision to help solve budget concerns, housing and land-use issues, protect the environment and keep Ashland an "incredible" place to live.

Steve Hauck favors a neighborhood-oriented government that uses the entire community to identify issues, articulate core values and analyze emerging trends to create a "road map" to forward progress.

Peter Gross made food and water security his top priority, and supports local production of both food and sustainable and renewable energy.

Jenifer Carr said she believes water policies are an "encompassing" problem in Ashland and made completing the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix water pipeline project a priority, along with stopping storm sewer drainage into Bear Creek.

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or jfrench@dailytidings.com.