Moderated by Rick Badie
Today, a University of Georgia professor and his graduate assistant offer research findings that show county comprehensive plans, mandated by the state, may create jobs in the long term. Meanwhile, an executive of a teen advocacy group implores us to take the lead in educating youth on financial matters.
By Jeffrey H. Dorfman and Jennie Allison
Long-range comprehensive plans are done by all county governments in Georgia thanks to a requirement in the Georgia Planning Act of 1989. Because Georgia’s history with mandatory planning is still quite short, and strong property-rights beliefs are held by citizens, plenty are skeptical of the benefits of such planning.
Comprehensive planning incorporates many types of planning such as land use, transportation, environmental, social and regional planning. Planning helps a community envision its future and decide the direction it takes. While the resulting plans look over a long period, comprehensive plans are typically updated and redone every five years.
Such planning could have a number of benefits. Better planning might yield fewer traffic jams or an improved parks system. It can organize land uses so that nobody lives next to a smelly factory, but close to shopping. It can help ensure fire stations end up in the right locations at minimal cost and response time.
What other benefits might good planning produce? A question that does not appear to have been investigated is whether the quality and consistency of local planning has an impact on economic growth.
We recently surveyed professional planners around the state and asked them to rate the long-range comprehensive plans of different counties on a number of features — thoroughness, consistency of implementation and innovation. We then used statistical analysis to see the impact of county planning efforts prior to the year 2000 on job growth between 2000 and 2005.
Not all aspects of planning appear to deliver effects in easy-to-see economic terms. This is not surprising, since economic development is not specifically the point of planning efforts. However, we do find one very clear result on jobs.
Counties that consistently followed their comprehensive plans saw an average increase in jobs that was 27 percent more over a five-year period than if those counties had ignored their comprehensive plans. This finding means that simply following through on the plan can produce job growth of 5 percent per year above what a county can expect if the plan is stuck on a shelf. This finding holds across the state, in both rural and urban areas.
Our research does not tell us why this happens, but it seems likely that businesses prefer to operate in a predictable environment. A county government that follows its own plan demonstrates to potential employers it can be trusted to deliver.
(It is important to note that there is no guarantee a county’s employment will grow by 5 percent per year just because it sticks to its comprehensive plan. There are other policies counties can take that can hurt or help job growth.)
Some Georgia counties take their long-range planning very seriously. Others produce a plan to satisfy the law and then ignore it until it is time for the mandated update. Our research suggests a big economic payoff in the form of more jobs for counties that stick to their plans.
Jeffrey H. Dorfman is a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Georgia. Jennie Allison is a master’s degree student.
Financial literacy for teens
By Jack Harris
At the end of April’s Financial Literacy Month, Junior Achievement of Georgia (JA) reflected on the role that financial responsibility and the recent economic recession had on the success of Georgia’s youth.
Inspired by the topic, JA encouraged parents and mentors to address the subject of finance with youth by increasing their awareness of how to become financially stable, conveying the importance of setting goals and paving the way for success.
It is important to remember that sharing the knowledge necessary for achieving financial success should not stop with one month. It should continue throughout the year. We challenge parents and mentors to continue conversations and prepare children to take control of their finances.
Junior Achievement dedicates itself to preparing kindergarten through 12th-grade students for success in a global economy. We understand that being well-versed in financial literacy is far more complex than teaching your child to put pennies in the piggy bank. Due to the complexity of this issue, it is vital that we introduce financial literacy to children early.
Due to constraining economic conditions, today’s youth are being forced to learn more about money management. In fact, 81 percent of teens say k-12 is the best time to learn about money management. How do we have this serious conversation with our children so they are prepared for the financial challenges ahead? Well, there’s no doubt that financial literacy is a difficult subject to introduce to anyone, let alone a fifth grader, but it is a subject that will assist and influence that child the rest of his or her life.
It is never too soon to teach these lessons. Much like the “birds and bees” talk of previous eras, money management has become one of those “tough conversations” that teenagers need to have with learn from their parents. Many parents are uncomfortable educating their children about finances and hope they learn these lessons from someone else. But the more honest and open we become with youth, the more opportunities they have to learn, understand and grow.
The goal of Junior Achievement is to reinvent the way children learn about financial issues and how to weather an unstable economic climate. Learning the basics of finance and economics will help youth prepare for their future — whether it’s buying their first car, saving for college or investing in that first home.
To achieve this goal, Junior Achievement’s Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center will open this August with two hallmark programs — JA BizTown and JA Finance Park. The concepts exist in more than 20 U.S. cities. Students will be exposed to opportunities for hands-on interactive learning and be provided a rigorous, relevant curriculum on financial literacy, business and career exploration.
It is the responsibility of the entire community to help build our youth’s foundation for success. Junior Achievement and many area businesses like Chick-fil-A, Delta Airlines and SunTrust are working together to provide students with the stepping stones to a sound financial future.
Jack Harris is president of Junior Achievement of Georgia.