I seem to live in “no man’s land” most of the time. I advise on economic development matters but I’m not an economic developer. I advise on legal matters but I’m not an attorney. The same is true for political strategy development, transportation planning, workforce training, etc. There’s an upside: being knowledgeable in a lot of interrelated areas (and an expert in a handful) allows one to see the bigger picture that’s often overlooked.
That’s why I’ve been thinking about the state’s economic development tools so much. I work closely with a few economic developers and organizations, and the “toolbox of incentives” is brought up regularly. I understand the issue and concerns. I have recommended and written some of the current laws, I have edited some, and I have opposed some. Most recently, the GPLET incentive has produced many conversations and hours on the phone. Put simply, this is the incentive where a city can reduce property taxes on an individual development.
I believe some people opining on GPLET have no business being in the negotiation room. They have no idea why it was created, when and how it should be used, or how this can potentially fit with good policy. Hopefully they won’t screw up things too much. This issue needs to be fixed. Continuing to hammer nails with a screwdriver (sticking with the tool theme) is not good public policy. But, we need to explore why this is being done in the first place. My friends at ATRA and The Goldwater Institute make very good points. Some of my economic development friends have made good points as well.
I believe we can make this work. Maybe an honest and thorough review of two or three tools each summer and fall will advance the cause longer term. I don’t know, but I will be following the current debate closely.
Author’s note: If there is a particular economic or policy issue you would like covered in a later publication feel free to send your ideas and/or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.