It takes a network, part 2

I was at an EDA conference yesterday where a major topic of discussion was the report of the Strengthening America’s Communities Advisory Committee, which was released in July. The SACAC, as it has become known in economic development circles, was established by the Secretary of Commerce earlier this year to take a look at the nation’s economic development programs – as part of the Administration’s proposal (called “Strengthening America’s Communities) to consolidate economic and community development programs (which the critics fear is really a way of cutting the funding for these programs).
The report notes the problems with the 2004 hurricane recovery efforts in Florida and talks about the numerous Federal programs. The SACAC endorsed the concept of consolidation but also called for the creation of a Cabinet-level inter-agency council to coordinate programs. Apropos my earlier posting (It Takes a Network) – I strongly agree with the coordinating council. No amount of consolidation will ever eliminate the overlap and duplication – and over-consolidation would stifle flexibility and innovation. I continue to believe, however, that a specific agency tasked with focused recovery activities is needed to cope with natural or, as Phil Singerman calls them, unnatural disasters (plant closings, based closings, etc.). That would free up EDA and other agencies to focus on longer-term activities.
By the way, the report also repeats what I and many others have said about the importance of intangibles in economic development, specifically mentioning human capital, higher education and amenities as key regional assets.

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