Friday, October 31, 2008

Girtz on economic development

Safe As Houses favorite Kelly Girtz, the District Nine Commissioner for Athens-Clarke County, offered a comment regarding the proposed regional economic development initiative, and I wanted to share it with all ...

I just wanted to drop a quick note about concerns surrounding the Regional Economic Development proposal. No “melting down” seems underway, though media coverage has highlighted concerns from both Oconee and Clarke Commissioners. As you note, the initial step – pooling resources to better provide entry into local opportunities – is a no-brainer. I have not heard nothing but strong support regarding dedication of current economic development funding to a single entity by Oconee and Clarke.

The concerns that have been expressed are those about what happens in future iterations of the plan. It would not be entirely accurate to state that “nothing is mapped out” about future endeavors. More accurately, there are many details to be determined, but there are some specific recommendations, including that in 10-15 years funding comes from a variety of sources including “a dedicated portion of the millage for economic development purposes” (the report summary is available online).

It may be that this will be an ideal funding mechanism, but this should not be a foregone conclusion. What sometimes happens with multi-stage plans in large organizations is a momentum that is hard to re-direct after several steps have been completed, even when it has been explicitly stated that “the future is yet to be determined.” My own desire in asking questions now is simply to make sure that only the first phase is endorsed, and nobody is on the hook for the next steps.

Ideally, the first step will be wildly successful. Appropriate properties will be identified for development, successful businesses will be started, and there will be a high comfort level with expansion of the program. I am ready to vote for the initial phase ASAP, as I believe most or all of my colleagues to be.


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