Originally created 06/30/00

Economists suggest merging agencies



ATLANTA - Gov. Roy Barnes' summer reading will include a six-volume analysis detailing flaws in the state's economic development programs and recommending major reorganization of the agencies involved.

If he agrees with the suggestions, he'll have to convince the Legislature of them in January.

Next week, Atlanta-based consultants Market Street Services Inc. will present a summary of the conclusions and recommendations made by a team of analysts after a year's study. Mr. Barnes will get six options, ranging from doing nothing to merging three agencies or contracting industrial recruitment to a private marketing company.

"The state has done well economically due to the incredible economic engine of the Atlanta MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area)," a draft of the final report states. "Much of the economic prosperity is not directly attributable to coordinated state efforts, and the prosperity is not widespread or shared by all Georgians."

Mr. Barnes ordered the study, but the heads of the agencies have not been entirely enthusiastic.

"They were asked to do this. They did not ask to do it," said J. Mac Holladay, president of Market Street and former chairman of the Governor's Development Council under Gov. Zell Miller.

Among the consultants findings were:

"No one is in charge or being held accountable.

There is continuing conflict between (the Department of Industry Trade and Tourism and the Department of Community Affairs) and most of the other delivery agencies.

There is no history of collaboration in Georgia. Minor cooperation has occurred on selected minor projects."

Jim Higdon, commissioner of community affairs, wrote Mr. Barnes' policy director, Renay Blumenthal, with his own recommendation for merging his department with Industry and Trade. On the same day, June 9, Industry and Trade Commissioner R.K. Sehgal wrote Ms. Blumenthal objecting to major reorganization.

"We feel the proposed alternatives that are tantamount to wholesale realignment are unnecessary and would be disruptive and distracting," he wrote.

Reach Walter C. Jones at (404) 589-8424.