Chamber Releases Washington Economics Group Study: Findings Show Unified Economic Vision Could Result in Long Term Growth

Click HERE for the full study.

A dynamic new study by the nationally-renowned Washington Economics Group makes a compelling case for the potential merger of Tallahassee and Leon County into a single consolidated governance structure to measurably boost the local economy and significantly enhance accountability of the government to the people it serves. The timely, lasting benefits and positive impact that likely would result justify such a possible change for a healthier economic climate and transparency, the report concluded.

The Chamber-commissioned study suggests that a merged government structure could serve as a propelling agent for Tallahassee and Leon County’s economic trajectory in the years ahead – while also helping to more effectively pinpoint a single entity that can be more accessible and accountable to citizens.

Tallahassee’s economy has proven to be stable and growing in recent years. The forward momentum of the local economy is proof of Tallahassee’s potential. Based on experiences of benchmark communities, the Washington Economic Group suggests that a consolidated approach to government can yield an even more positive economic outlook for Tallahassee.

The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce commissioned the study by the consultant firm headed by Dr. Tony Villamil. The study, authorized by the Chamber’s Board of Directors, was undertaken after the community’s leading voice for business and an improved quality of life issued a strong strategic statement about the need to consider such a change in local government. A stronger economy and challenging times in the community were cited by the Chamber Board as some of the major impetus to actively consider a structural change in local government.

Observations on Best Practices

In the concluding observations made by the WEG study of government consolidation impacts in Tallahassee-Leon County, lead economist Dr. Villamil and his team constructed three best practices that are key drivers for a successful government merger:

  1. Craft a charter that meets the community’s economic development needs without losing the political support of key constituents.
  2. Show the average citizen voter that the current government structure is unable to achieve the economic vision that is key to their economic future.
  3. Create a new local government constitution that restructures the organization to effectively implement the proposed economic development vision and strategy.

Models for Comparison

The Washington Economics Group (WEG) study details the consolidation action and outcome in five cities — to draw observations that may help inform the potential impacts of a merged government in Tallahassee and Leon County. The cities used for this comparative analysis are Nashville, TN, Jacksonville, FL, Indianapolis, IN, Athens, GA, and Louisville, KY. Each city has experienced various economic benefits since residents chose to consolidate their local governments. Shared benefits across all of these comparative cities include the mitigation of urban sprawl, fiscal efficiencies, and improved business climates.

Each city features unique governance models that have been crafted by engaged citizens in an effort to create a better government that generates a more prosperous, accountable community. Consolidation efforts across the country have made many promises, but as the WEG study highlights, the most frequently reliable outcome for successfully consolidated governments has been higher performing economic development efforts.

Of the five comparative consolidated city governments included in the WEG study, they have an average employment and population growth that has exceeded the national average over the past five years. The average employment growth in those cities exceeds the Tallahassee-Leon County growth rate by nearly four percent.

Potential for Positive Economic Impact

The WEG suggests that Tallahassee and Leon County could realize significant increases in economic growth over the first five years of consolidation of the local governments. Using the average growth rates of comparative cities, WEG built a case that a robust positive impact on the local economy could result from a government merger that is structured appropriately. Using a quantitative simulation of potential economic consequences that could result from a Tallahassee-Leon County government merger, WEG found potential for high levels of growth in three key indicators: employment, household income, and gross domestic product.

The Chamber’s Board of Directors has asked its Business Advocacy Committee to outline the next steps of the organization’s consideration of a consolidated government in Tallahassee-Leon County. The Chamber Board looks forward to advancing this discussion at its regularly scheduled meeting in February.

Heidi Otway, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Tallahassee Chamber, said the study provides an important ramp of opportunity for boosting the Tallahassee economy. “In our community’s modern history, this study demonstrates that thoughtful, meaningful change could be the key catalyst to best propel us forward for the benefit of all,” said Otway. “We have so many positive community qualities, significant projects and committed individuals and organizations that could support a reasonable change that can make a great difference now and for the future.”

Chamber president Sue Dick added that while Tallahassee and Leon County have enjoyed a period of good momentum and progress, the path forward could be significantly strengthened even more if a structural change to streamline government could lead to greater economic vitality for the community.

“The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce is committed to using the observations and best practices outlined by Dr. Villamil and his Washington Economics Group team as a guiding structure for how we aim to advance the government merger discussion in our community,” said Dick.  “Everyone who loves and cares about our community and its best future should welcome, not resist, a serious consideration of the potential lasting benefits of a governance change that could result in a better quality of life and more accountability of government to the governed.”

Mark O’Bryant, Chair-elect for the Chamber, added yet another perspective about next steps. “The Florida Chamber Foundation has forecasted that Tallahassee-Leon County will need 9,113 new jobs by 2020 in order to maintain pace with our growing community,” said O’Bryant. “As a community searching for high impact economic growth, we have to truly consider a path that could lead us to more successful outcomes.”

Click HERE for the full study.

For information regarding economic impact data and equations used, please contact the Washington Economics Group and Dr. Tony Villamil directly at 305.461.3811.

For Further Information Contact:

Dana Noles
Vice President
Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce
850.521.3108 (direct line)
850.566.1505 (cell phone)

The VISION of the Chamber is to be the premier voice for business and drive high impact economic development.

Our MISSION is to be the catalyst for local business growth with the goal of providing a positive return on investment for our members and to retain and expand our local business community.