Economic Developers.

 

Vermont is having a hard time with this economy. An example of this happened last week as the St. Johnsbury Board of Selectmen found itself with the task of cutting several position(s) within the town. Included in these cuts was the Economic Developer, Joel Schwartz. At this point there are two main arguments for why this was done and the selectmen were in the first category.

1. The town simply can’t afford the position and it’s unfair to continue to raise local taxes at a time when the town is already buckling under the weight of taxes. There are also questions as to what exactly this position has accomplished and by what standards. Namely, is it worth the salary and benefits that were paid?

2. A smaller group of local residents mainly the supporters of the now unemployed Mr. Schwartz claim that his position, per capita costs less than $10.00 per resident per year and that the position can demonstrate thousands if not millions of dollars in economic development projects, taxbase and jobs.

I’m with number one. I think as policymakers the selectmen did what they are elected to do and represented the taxpayers. I’d also like to see from a sales quota perspective exactly what this position has accomplished in the last 3-5 years. It is a challenging economic environment, especially in the area of capital and taxbase but I still think a sales type of analysis would show that the selectmen made the right decision.

But what does cutting jobs in Vermont have to do with New Hampshire?

I think if you look at state government that per capita New Hampshire has more economic developers than Vermont and Maine combined. Now why is this? And more importantly, what are these position(s) accomplishing for New Hampshire at this point in time?

It’s also interesting that in New Hampshire there really isn’t much oversight over economic developers like there is in Vermont. In New Hampshire local boards of selectmen don’t have the authority to cut and eliminate these positions. The only authority I know of which has been done is a town like Bartlett can decide it doesn’t want to pay its yearly membership dues to the North Country Council Inc. which is the economic developer for northern NH but I’m confident this won’t  have much of an impact.

So New Hampshire has economic developers like DRED, North Country Council Inc., the Coos Economic Development Council and it goes on from here. Who is actually paying for these positions and who do they really answer to?

At a recent Governor and Council meeting DRED Commissioner George Bald was confirmed for another term at $100K plus a year there didn’t seem to be much, if any, opposition to this nomination maybe in NH economic developers don’t need any oversight like in Vermont; their qualifications and reasons for being are enough of a credential just to step over the concerns of the citizens regardless of what it’s costing.