Amid little fanfare, yesterday Governor Cooper’s announced his new Hometown Strong initiative to help rural North Carolina communities.
According to a news release from the Governor’s office:
Hometown Strong will work with local leaders to stimulate economies and help businesses thrive in North Carolina’s rural communities by focusing on projects such as infrastructure improvements, broadband access and workforce training.
And just how will this effort work?
Through existing new partnerships with local leaders from government, business, non-profit organizations, the philanthropic community and others. Hometown Strong will seek to leverage state and local resources to help complete local development projects, convene conversations between state and local agencies and identify long-term projects that can encourage prosperity in local communities.
Translation: Hometown Strong will work to ensure local communities are harnessing all the federal, state and private resources they can to plan and develop projects.
Cooper says Hometown Strong is anti—bureaucracy. How is that the case when it the major goal of the program is to ensure communities are accessing all the available government and private programs.
A News and Observer article on the subject noted Hometown Strong has a staff of “just two so far” implying the staff will likely grow. Cooper named Prior Gibson and Mary Penney Kelley to lead the program and will pay them $148,000 and $18,000 respectively.
You have to wonder how such an initiative will really help rural communities – especially when there are already many government and private programs focused on the same problems. A quick google search of rural North Carolina programs pulls up a treasure trove of efforts: The NC Rural Center, The Rural Economic Development Division of the Department of Commerce, Golden Leaf Foundation, The Rural Infrastructure Authority, Office of Rural Health, The NC Main Street and Rural Planning Center. Rural Economic Development and Workforce Solutions in the Department of Commerce. Rural Life Center and Rural Health Information Technology. There’s more but I trust you get the point.
Suffice it to say concern over rural communities and economic development is not a new concern. However, building another bureaucracy to help rural areas access more government programs, is.
We all share a commitment to a North Carolina where rural areas are healthy and thriving economically. Making another bureaucracy won’t make that a reality.
The good news is that we already know proven ways to help rural communities. Ending state incentive programs to attract corporations, reducing taxes and regulation will do much to help Main Street. Moreover, policies that strengthen the family like school choice can give children access to better educational opportunities while also nurturing economic growth (see here and here).
And we don’t need to create another bureaucracy.