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Candidates debate economic growth in Pleasant Grove

Residents hear plans to bring businesses to downtown area

PLEASANT GROVE — Economic development in Pleasant Grove is the major issue for candidates running for office in the growing Utah County city.

During a meeting last week at which residents could meet and listen to candidates, mayoral candidate Cindy Boyd said her first priority would be to make the rapidly growing city more economically viable.

The city can do that, she said, through honing the master plan for the Gateway development and bringing businesses back to the downtown area.

"Pleasant Grove is no longer the small town I grew up in," Boyd said. "It's become larger and has so much potential, but we need to build our tax base so that burden doesn't fall to our citizens."

The city's other mayoral challenger, Mike Daniels, agreed that the city needs to bring more business, but urged caution in the kinds of businesses it brings in.

"If you want true economic development in Pleasant Grove, you have to look beyond sales tax, you have to look at creating jobs," Daniels said. "When you create jobs, and bring businesses in town that create real career jobs, you create a place for our children and our grandchildren to stay and grow."

Both Boyd and Daniels are members of the City Council, and when asked if they would be able to continue working on the council after the winner was announced, both pledged to serve the city in any position.

Many of the questions directed at council candidates also focused on the economic development issue. Incumbent councilman Jeff Wilson said he has utmost confidence in the leadership team for the Gateway development, and believes it will work out well. However, he expressed the concern that the city needs to help the downtown area.

"A lot of people have contacted me and told me that we just need to let downtown die and start over, but I don't agree with that," he said. "People brought their businesses here because they trusted us, because they thought we would buy their product. I shop in Pleasant Grove, and I support those businesses."

Challenger Joe Spencer, himself a small business owner, agreed that the city needs to do more to help that sector, by providing more space in the downtown area for small business and helping owners through Small Business Administration programs.

"As a small business owner, I've seen some things we can do to become more business-friendly," Spencer said. "We can also add more to our viability to businesses through customer service."

Incumbent councilman Mark Atwood acknowledged that bringing in tax dollars to provide essential services to a rapidly growing city is a priority, but said the town cannot make the pursuit of money its No. 1 goal.

"I think growth is only beneficial when it improves our quality of life," Atwood said. "I'm not one to just do things to get them done and get the money — money is not the most important thing."

Atwood also pledged to continue being someone residents can call when they have a question about something that is happening within the city.

Candidate Lee Jensen, challenging for a seat on the city council, pointed out that finding money is not likely to solve the city's problems.

"In reality, revenues don't solve problems," he said. "What solves problems are the people, and the people you elect as mayor and city council representatives are going to solve those problems."

Jensen pointed to his professional administrative experience in both the education and professional fields, saying he is qualified alternative for residents who are not satisfied with the state of the city.

"I'm not convinced that growth is most important issue that faces the electorate this year," he said. "I think the most important issue is the issue of satisfaction. Are we satisfied with economic development, are we satisfied with our sidewalks, our sewers and our roads?"

Today is the last day residents can register to vote in the general election. Registration will be available at the Pleasant Grove Community Center, 41 E. 200 South, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.