Another Blow Against City-County Mergers
Advocates of a city-county merger between Pittsburgh and Allegheny County constantly tout the economic development benefits they promise are sure to follow. It is claimed that consolidating City and County economic development agencies will make it easier to attract new firms. Of course they offer no credible evidence this will happen or that it has happened in other city-county mergers. But why let minor details such as convincing arguments or evidence stand in the way?
Researchers from Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research have released results from an upcoming report suggesting government consolidation is not important for economic development. Studying city-county consolidations from Georgia, Kansas, and Louisiana, the researchers found no statistical evidence that consolidation leads to economic growth. According to one of the authors, "people argue that city-county government consolidation is likely to have a positive effect on economic development because less bureaucracy and more efficient government will attract new businesses, encourage the expansion of existing business and increase local employment." Their research shows this not to be the case. They found no change in the number of jobs or firms in either merger in Georgia or Kansas and while in Louisiana there were some improvements to the number of firms and service employment levels, they were not statistically significant.
In short, city-county mergers have not been a panacea for economic woes where they have been tried in other places. And a merger will not cure Pittsburgh’s anemic economic performance.