Economic development logical role for county
Sunday, April 28, 2013 10:00 PM
The most pressing dilemma confronting the County Council is how to continue providing the current level of County services with ever-diminishing revenues. There was a point when trimming the fat made excellent sense, but after years of belt-tightening, personnel cuts and all manner of financial juggling we've now reached the point where if we don't find new income pretty soon - roads don't get properly repaired, public safety gets compromised and traditional government services predictably falter.
Tom Utley is a Montgomery County Councilman and writes a column for The Paper of Montgomery County.
County government bottom-feeds off the tax revenue food chain, but unlike the Fed we can't just crank up the presses and print up an extra trillion or so whenever the mood strikes. We, like you, must live within our means, endlessly thin slicing available income to cover ever-rising expenses.
Economic development is a tactical, financial alternative that focuses on the income side of the profit and loss statement. I was asked the other day in a radio interview, "Should government have a role in economic development?" What or who else besides government can harness broad-based resources and coordinate large-scale strategy for the greater economic good? Successful economic development proactively offers the most efficient solution to our declining prosperity. A better question: What can government do to compliment and improve on the community's prosperity potential?
First, we take care of what we have. We must do our part to make Montgomery County employers competitive and avoid placing avoidable obstacles in their path to prosperity. We must protect their assets. We must continue to provide and maintain adequate infrastructure. We must ensure that job-creators can draw from a sufficient pool of well-trained talent. And, we must manage government services so that taxation does not infringe on local employers' ability to compete. In short, we must not kill the goose laying all those golden eggs.
Next, we mustn't shoot ourselves in the foot with bureaucracy. We've got city, county and small town governments which dovetail infrastructure and services for our local businesses. Within each jurisdiction are myriad departments, committees and personnel which must efficiently coordinate if employers are to enjoy an advantageous business climate.
The final answer for solving our financial crisis is stimulating the growth of something new, because there's no such thing as an economic status quo. Once, Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles were great cars, and books were always printed pages nestled between hard-bound covers. Economic development planning translates as "foresight". And, entrepreneurs - people who take measured risks to achieve profitable results have always made the difference in job creation history. We desperately need local entrepreneurs capable of making a next-generation difference as our businesses inevitably evolve. Traditionally, entrepreneurs have lived and died on their own. Then the "global" economy along came and since it has become obvious to everyone (well, almost everyone . . .) that we need to boost our entrepreneurial odds if local job creation is to have any potential for success.
The common denominator all governments now confront is - competition. Nations play their games to find advantage with currency manipulation, sector subsidies and industrial espionage. States do their worst with taxation strategy, infrastructure one-upmanship, and even promote union-busting to find a competitive trump. It's a tough neighborhood. Crafting a local job-creation ferment with any legitimate "advantage" in this hyper-competitive world is a daunting challenge. Hence, any effort for planned economic growth will be neither passive nor individual. Economic development is a completely logical role for County government.