Growth requires investment, risk | Ryan Ryals

Recently, Businessweek magazine declared that Maple Valley is the best city to raise kids in the entire state. This is following last year’s declaration by Family Circle magazine that put Maple Valley in the top 10 in the country for places to raise kids.

I told my kids about the exciting news, and they couldn’t care less. One asked if having zero movie theaters gave Maple Valley extra bonus points.

There isn’t an official city strategy to get to the top of these lists, and the news came as a surprise to everyone.

Expect to see our politicians try to convince you next Election Day that this was planned all along, though.

The official reasons cited for Maple Valley’s child-raising dominance were the Lake Wilderness Lodge, parks department activities, and the superior school system.

However, if you listen to the voters, the schools don’t need more money, so they voted down the latest school bond.  Two weeks ago, a letter writer complained in this paper about the city’s reckless spending habits, so they apparently don’t need any more money either.

The writer clearly doesn’t attend the city council meetings — I never see her there — and doesn’t realize that city staff are getting laid off, while expenses have been cut every year, usually by several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The only place left to cut is the parks department, which could cause our nationally recognized parenting utopia to diminish somewhat.

The voters and the letter writer are very concerned about the immediate outlay and aren’t paying attention to the big picture.

I had a couple of business partners who felt the same way. When we had a downturn in the sales and were losing about $10,000 a month, we had to come up with a plan. Their first ideas were to cut out the bottled water for the office — the tap water was orange and undrinkable — to turn down the heat, and stop allowing space heaters.

The net effect of those actions would have reduced the productivity from our employees, you know, the ones who help us make money.

Also, those things don’t begin to approach the amount of money needed to make up the shortfall.

I fought it and we didn’t go that route. Instead, I sold my precious Corvette, took less money, and invested in growth.

We were inspired to take risks to find more customers while reducing expenses that didn’t impact our customers or our employees.

If you think that government should be run like a business, then you’d know that a good business will invest in the future, even when times are bad. This might involve spending money for a new computer system that saves money and time, or an advertising strategy that pulls in new customers and keeps existing ones happy.

Good businesses cannot simply sit around and wait for things to get better. The ones that do will go out of business while their competitors steal their share of the marketplace. I’ve seen it happen in the last two industries I was involved in, and I’ve done a lot of the market share stealing myself.

School bonds and local tax increases are often painted as a huge financial burden by some of the louder voices in this community. That’s because these people only see the $20 per year leaving their wallets, and don’t see it as an investment in their property values.

When it comes to investing in schools and government services, you and I and every other citizen are the business owners, not the caretakers who run them for us.

Real estate agents in town are already trumpeting the Businessweek declaration on their websites, that Maple Valley is the best city in Washington state to raise kids. Why? Because there are plenty of moms who decide where to buy a house based on the school system and local amenities like parks.

I’ve read the online message boards myself — Maple Valley’s Tahoma School District is competing with Issaquah, Bellevue, and Mercer Island when it comes to superior school systems.

More demand from picky moms equals more home sales. More home sales equals higher resale prices.

Does that mean you should vote yes for every school bond or local tax increase? I don’t think so. Sometimes these school bonds are filled with stuff that is hard to support. Sometimes a tax increase could be better spent on a different area like roads.

But if you simply say no because you’re trying to keep that extra $20 in your wallet, you might find a lot fewer of those twenties in your bank account when you finally sell your house.

Maple Valley has a chance to be the greatest city in the state of Washington. But we have to want that title first, and be willing to invest wisely. The schools and the government belong to us and it’s up to us to keep them great.


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