Editorial: Department of Commerce overhaul takes reactionary approach

May. 16, 2013 @ 01:39 PM

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

That’s cornerstone wisdom passed down through generations.

We might suggest a corollary: If you need a tune-up, don’t buy a new car.

But at first blush, that seems to be the approach that Senate Bill 127 takes toward the state’s economic development efforts.

When Gov. Pat McCrory announced plans in April to overhaul of the N.C. Department of Commerce and essentially make it a public-private partnership under the name Partnership for Prosperity, there were no details about how the change would affect the seven existing regional economic development groups, including AdvantageWest, which works with Caldwell and 22 other counties in western North Carolina.

SB 127 would cut off state funding to those seven regional economic development groups and replace them with ... eight new regional economic development groups.

Maybe there’s some logic to that, but it seems at first blush a reactionary approach, scrapping one regional system and its existing programs -- many of which are extensive and delivering solid results -- and creating a brand-new regional system from scratch.

If your complaint is that there is not enough coordination between the regions, which hampers larger goals and results in duplication of effort, you can mandate a structure for that and streamline without blowing up the entirety of what is already in place.

It feels a bit as though SB 127 is pursuing two goals simultaneously: partly overhauling economic development, but partly implementing zero-base budgeting, in which you start from nothing each year when crafting a budget. If that’s the case, we would rather the latter part of the debate be handled in a different forum and argued on its own merits.

Further, SB 127 smacks a bit of top-down, one-size-fits-all central planning.

If local and regional officials have complaints with the existing regional structures, by all means address them in the context of an overhaul. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, or reinvent the wheel.

That’s more cornerstone wisdom passed down through generations.