by Joseph Coletti
Senior Fellow, Fiscal Studies, John Locke Foundation
Who could argue with bringing economic vitality to small towns who aren’t home to famous forecasters or unbelievable events?
Gov. Cooper announced creation of a two-person team to help rural towns with “projects such as infrastructure improvements, broadband access, and workforce training.” Press reports did not make clear the source of funds for the new initiative, though the News and Observer suggested the funding will be fairly significant, “The team, so far just two people, will offer expertise on what projects are needed and can reasonably be attained, and help with paperwork and staffing.” And the goal of it will be to “track down funding from state, federal and nonprofit sources.” Legislators for their part are looking to revamp economic incentive programs so more of that money goes to rural places.
Distance and regulations raise the cost of living and doing business in rural areas. More than 30 counties have lost population since 2010. It seems unlikely that dumping money into big new projects does not produce growth, even with local cheerleading. Fewer regulations, more flexibility for existing grants from federal and state government, and lower taxes can provide space for local communities to develop local solutions.