Job Creation Estimate for Gaston’s Garden Parkway in Dispute

May 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm 1 comment

In the world of local economic development, the push for large projects is often justified by claims about job creation. In the case of the controversial Garden Parkway in Gaston County, competing estimates are putting the economic benefits of this project into question.

John Connaughton, an economics professor at UNC Charlotte, put his estimate at 18,000– a figure that has been used in promotional materials by supporters of the project, including television commercials. However, the Federal Highway Administration issued a memo stating that Connaughton had overestimated the job creation impact. In fact, the NC Turnpike Authority had estimated that the Garden Parkway would result in 900 jobs lost in North Carolina, and that South Carolina would gain 600 jobs.  (Interestingly, Connaughton also drafted the economic impact study for another controversial and costly project, the Charlotte Knights stadium.)

The FHA says that the methodology used by Connaughton was flawed (specific issues about his assumptions and method are reported by the Charolotte Observer here). And advocates have come out on both sides of the issue.

The cost of the Parkway is estimated at $800-$900 million. That’s a hefty price tag. Investments in infrastructure are certainly important in economic development, but before the state moves forward with the project, it should be sure about the impacts to the local community and the state. Big-ticket projects like this can drum up a lot of excitement and hype about the proposed benefits, but we need to be smart and strategic about how and where we invest our shared resources.

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