Senator Jane Nelson
P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
Fax (512) 463-0923

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 10, 2003
Contact: Dave Nelson
(972) 724-0066

OP-ED ARTICLE
Fishing for Economic Development

The one that got away.

Most fishermen -- or women -- can tell you a story about hooking a heavyweight fish, struggling to reel it in, only to watch the line come up empty. Texas has some of those tales, too, but the fish are even bigger and have names like Boeing or Intel.

Economic development is a lot like fishing. Bait the hook. Cast your line. Hope for a bite. The problem in Texas is that we have too many lines in the water and not enough bait.

I filed Senate Bill 275 to improve our technique by putting our very best equipment into the hands of Governor Rick Perry and sending him where we know the big fish are waiting. It will save $1.4 million annually for taxpayers, and that should be a most welcome idea in this legislative session.

Specifically, SB 275 abolishes the Texas Department of Economic Development, along with its nine-member board, and transfers its functions into the Office of the Governor.

Those functions include: marketing and promoting the state as a premier business location; facilitating the location, expansion and retention of domestic and international investment; providing Texas businesses and communities assistance with international trade; serving as a central source of economic research & information.

It makes sense for the governor to perform this role, especially in recruiting major development. Most other states give the governor this mantle. And as a businesswoman, I know I would feel more comfortable looking straight into the eye of the governor and shaking on the deal instead of trying to negotiate with a nine-member board.

The Texas Department of Economic Development made strides to improve its operations since the Legislature put the agency on probation two years ago. However, it is possible for an agency to become so large that its efficiency is diminished.

In our case, there are also too many agencies involved in a function that should really only be performed by a select few. For example, not only does TDED have the job of promoting tourism in Texas. So do 10 other state agencies. We cannot afford this type of redundancy, especially in light of our current budget situation.

SB 275 shifts the responsibility of promoting tourism into five agencies: the Governor's Office, Texas Department of Transportation; Texas Parks & Wildlife; Texas Historical Commission; and Texas Commission on the Arts. This will result in a budget savings, as well.

This realignment will not only help us meet our budget. It will streamline our economic development efforts in a way that brings more jobs, tourists and investment to Texas.

Texas is hungry for economic development. We need growth now more than ever. Just a few weeks ago we saw what can be accomplish through an unified recruitment effort when we reeled in Toyota.

Competing against several other states, Texas was selected for the company's new manufacturing plant. That translates to $800 million in investments and approximately 2,000 new jobs.

That is quite a catch. Now, let's keep fishing.

Senator Jane Nelson represents District 12, which includes the growing suburban communities of Denton and Tarrant counties and parts of the city of Fort Worth. She is Chairman of the Sunset Advisory Commission, which is overseeing the Sunset review of the Texas Department of Economic Development.

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