The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 13, 2013

Muddying the waters | Merge redundant economic development groups

The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — A day after The Tribune-Democrat published a series of front-page articles on Cambria County’s tools for economic development, Commissioner Tom Chernisky – pardon the pun – hit the nail on the head.

“I’m not against economic development,” Chernisky said. “I’m for economic development. I’m for Cambria County and our region.”

So are we. But, like Chernisky, we’re not sure that Cambria County needs another group dedicated to developing economic opportunities here. Unfortunately, the Democrat commissioner’s counterparts, Republicans Doug Lengenfelder and Mark Wissinger, disagreed and voted to form the Cambria County Economic Development Authority on Monday.

The authority – which, if you’re counting at home, will be the 46th group listed as having some economic-development goals in Cambria County – will be working to develop a foreign trade zone.

“The concept is a good concept, and we should move forward with it,” Chernisky told our Dave Sutor on Monday night. “The only thing I voted against was that I don’t think we need a new board; not at all. We’ve got enough boards and authorities here in Cambria County.”

We certainly can understand that, especially after Randy Griffith’s look at each of the economic-development tools in the region.

To be fair, lumping all 46 groups together is a bit silly. No one is really going to confuse the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention and Visitors Bureau with the Johnstown Area Regional Industries,

as Lengenfelder pointed out to Griffith in Sunday’s series.

“The CVB creates economic activity within our county,” Lengenfelder said. “JARI wouldn’t dream of doing business the way the CVB does. They both have their own way of doing business. I wouldn’t expect JARI to draw in tourists, but I want them both here doing what they do.”

And we understand that. We just don’t understand why a 46th group is needed, especially when Cambria County Controller Ed Cernic Jr. says we can’t afford it.

“We’re having difficulties funding the boards that are in place now,” Cernic said. “Our budget certainly can’t support the additional appropriation of another county authority.”

We encourage our county and local leaders to work together to consolidate some of our economic-development groups. Find which agencies share common goals and resources and either eliminate some of them or allow them to merge to form a few new groups. Those groups can then aggressively pursue economic-development opportunities for our region.

In this case, more isn’t better. As the old saying goes, too many chefs spoil the broth.

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