For evidence of the problems inherent in government-planned “economic development,” look no further than the controversy over a report released last week by the Borderplex Alliance.
The organization, which is “dedicated to promoting economic development and prosperity in the Ciudad Juárez, El Paso, and southern New Mexico region,” hired a consultant to produce the 155-page “2015 Strategic Recommendations.”
El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar is upset that the authors, Austin-based Angelou Economics, didn’t get enough input from locals. (“It makes me question the thoughtfulness of the recommendations.”) She’s also angry over the incongruity of the report stressing the appeal of the region’s “abundant low-cost workforce” and advising that the area needs to address its “persistent low wages.”
Jerry Pacheco, founder of the rival Border Industrial Association, is unhappy that his entity was on the list of “Borderplex Alliance Regional Collaborators.” (“We told them we don’t want anything to do with their study.”) According to the El Paso Times, Pacheco is steamed that “the Borderplex Alliance’s … proposed plan conflicts with a number of others being compiled in New Mexico, including a huge planning project in Doña Ana County.”
A commenter on the Las Cruces Sun-News‘s website took exception with the failure to include the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument: “The report is way off base. For instance, to attract tourists it does not even mention the national monument. Instead it heralds the development of an Old West theme park. This is such a bad idea.”
The best economic-development strategy remains an aggressive effort to limit government’s intrusiveness and cost, while promoting education-freedom measures that generate workers with widely diverse skills.
Economic-development bureaucracies are adept at spending local, state, and federal revenues on studies, commissions, and conferences. Creating wealth and jobs? The results are consistently unimpressive. For the record, the Bordeplex Alliance’s most recent investment announcement — an expansion of Douglas Steel Supply’s El Paso facility — was issued more than four months ago.