Governor Tom Corbett's budget proposal for the fiscal year 2011-2012 proposes significant changes to the state's community and economic development delivery system, and officials at the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission [NCPRPDC] are feeling the squeeze.
"Eliminated from the governor's budget proposal were earmarked resources for many of the major economic development service providers, including the local development districts like North Central, the small business development centers, the industrial resource centers, and the industrial development assistance program," said Eric Bridges, executive director of NCPRPDC.
Replacing these line items is a new initiative called Partnership for Regional Economic Performance [PREP].
The intent of PREP is to encourage a more coordinated and efficient approach to the delivery of economic development services by providing competition-based grants to economic development service providers within designated regions.
"Under the proposed initiative, service providers within designated areas will be required to develop a coordinated and comprehensive community and economic development approach incorporating definitive performance metrics," Bridges said. "This change, although not without its challenges, did not come as a surprise. It was something the commission had been anticipating and preparing for for quite some time."
Looking beyond the initial sting that comes with any significant change, Bridges said the prospect for a successful adoption of PREP in the commission's six-county region (Cameron, Clearfield, Elk, Jefferson, McKean and Potter counties) is high.
"A thoughtful review of PREP shows that it contains numerous elements such as a performance-based delivery system, integrated regional strategy, inter-agency collaboration and so forth, and those elements are already consistent with practices adopted in our region," Bridges said.
Despite the fact that the governor's proposal would reduce the amount of money available to the delivery system as a whole from $16 million to $12 million, Bridges said he believes the collaborative requirement of PREP combined with its heightened performance expectation puts the six-county region in a strategically advantageous position.
"Collaboration and performance aren't foreign concepts to our region and I have no apprehensions about our collective capabilities in this regard," Bridges said. "In the weeks since the governor first announced his proposed changes to the economic development delivery system, North Central and other directly-affected partners-- the Northwest Industrial Resource Center, the Clarion Small Business Development Center, and the various county economic development corporations-- have been convening to discuss and strategize on how we can collectively develop the framework, or at least a basis, of what a robust economic development services delivery system should look like for our six-county region."