Later today, Governor McCrory will announce his proposals to convert the Department of Commerce into a public private partnership that administers at least some of the state’s economic development programs. North Carolina taxpayers should be concerned.
Although we won’t know the specifics of this privatization scheme until the Governor’s announcement, we do know from previous public statements that the plan will likely involve the creation of a nonprofit economic development authority that receives financial support from both taxpayers and corporate donations in exchange for overseeing a range of activities related to industrial recruitment, existing industry support, and possibly small business development. This may also include administration of the state’s incentive programs—the Job Development Investment Grants (JDIGs), the OneNC Fund, and the Jobs Maintenance and Capital program for large employers.
Privatizing economic development isn’t new—a number of states have experimented with this approach over the past two decades, and the results are not encouraging. According to one recent report, states that have adopted public private partnerships for their economic development efforts have seen the misuse of taxpayer dollars, questionable incentive awards to failing companies, the appearance of pay-to-play incentive granting to those companies providing financial support to the partnership, and frequent lack of transparency and accountability with how the partnership spends taxpayer dollars.
And to top it all off, many of these partnerships haven’t proven to be very effective in generating the job creation results promised.