Group Explores Economic Development Strategies
By Jennifer Burnett, CSG Program Manager, Research Services and Special Projects
A priority in nearly every state is growing the economy.
“Leaders have limited resources and understandably want to direct those resources at policies that deliver results,” David Adkins, executive director/CEO of The Council of State Governments, told a new CSG working group last week.
Tax and financial incentive programs have long been a key policy lever for state economic development strategies. That strategy has led to bidding wars among some states, each offering increasingly more lucrative tax and financial deals for companies to relocate. But in the face of austerity measures, policymakers are taking a closer look at those incentive programs and beginning to question if they are the best use of limited state dollars.
This new working group will bring state leaders together to discuss how states can work in concert to encourage economic development. The working group is a key initiative of Kansas Sen. Jay Emler, the 2012 CSG chair.
“We want to determine the most practical ways states can move forward from the current model of interstate competition through specialized business incentives and into a more effective and cooperative model of economic development,” said Emler.
The working group is comprised of state legislators from across the country, state economic development agency officials and private sector members representing a diverse set of perspectives. At their inaugural meeting, members discussed barriers to creating a more streamlined, cooperative and successful approach to economic development.
For example, the group identified a number of significant barriers including a lack of:
Cooperation among states in areas of mutual benefit;
Communication within states between the legislature and economic development agencies;
Trust between economic development agencies and the legislature;
Reliable data on the impact and return on investment of incentive dollars;
A streamlined process by which businesses can access existing state services;
Interagency communication, including communication between economic development agencies and regulatory bodies;
Communication within states between local and state development practitioners.
“I was impressed by the depth of experience and valuable perspectives the participants brought to the table,” said Adkins. “By sharing their knowledge and insights, everyone left the meeting with a better understanding of the real world challenges and opportunities confronting the states.”
The group plans to meet again next month in Lexington, Ky., where it will begin identifying new and creative ways states can work together to establish effective economic development policies and programs that are driven by an informed and thoughtful process.
Learn more about the working group.