Category Archives: Economic development

George Mason Achieves R1 Research Classification

Frank Krueger (left) is co-director of the Center for the Study of Neuro-economics. Photo credit: George Mason University.

George Mason University has received the coveted “R1” status bequeathed by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Only 115 institutions across the country earn the “highest research activity” designation.

States the cover story of the winter edition of Mason Spirit magazine:

About 20 years ago, Mason thoughtfully began building a research portfolio that ranged from public policy to the physical sciences. Mason’s total research expenditures were nearly $27 million in 1995, increasing to about $65 million in 2005, and jumping to $101 million in 2016. The university is setting its sights high and aiming or $250 million by 2025.

Bacon’s bottom line: From an economic development perspective, Mason’s climb to R1 status is a strong positive. Northern Virginia needs a strong research university to bolster the region’s biomedical and IT sectors.

From an undergraduate student perspective, however, the R&D emphasis is a mixed blessing. Stronger research programs create opportunities for some undergrads. GMU’s engineering program, for instance, has built extensive partnerships with Northern Virginia industry that makes summer internships more readily available. But boosting research is expensive — lab facilities and star faculty don’t come cheap. Building research programs puts pressure on university administrations to increase tuition. Between the 2006-07 school year and the 2015-16 school year, the cost of in-state attendance at GMU increased 57%, more than the 53% average for all of Virginia’s public, four-year schools.

The trade-offs are complicated. Which delivers more value to Virginians — economic development opportunities stemming from R&D or from lower barriers to attendance for undergraduate students? You won’t find those questions highlighted in the glossy, university magazines.

Owens & Minor Goes for Millennials, Walkable City

Owens & Minor wants Millennials,and Millennials want 15-minute, livable communities. Graphic credit: Institute for the Future

Good economic news for the Richmond region: Medical supply giant Owens & Minor Inc. announced plans Thursday to open a client engagement center in downtown Richmond that will employ 500 people. Jobs will average about $53,700 in annual pay.

In making the announcement Governor Terry McAuliffe made much of the fact that Richmond competed against 60 other cities in a year-long search process. Less was made of the fact that Owens & Minor, which is located in the Mechanicsville suburb of Richmond, chose to locate in the central city rather than one of the region’s outlying counties.

The reason? “We want to attract the millennial generation,” CEO Cody Phipps told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We did our research. The millennial generation is going to be 50-plus percent of the workforce in the next few years, and they want to live in urban areas. They want to be downtown. They want to work in a state-of-the-art space. We like that we can draw from the universities around here.”

Owens & Minor will make Riverfront Plaza in downtown Richmond its newest home.

Owens & Minor will make Riverfront Plaza in downtown Richmond its newest home. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

I don’t know who conducted Phipps’ research, but I know of one outfit in town that does specialize in generational marketing — The Institute for Tomorrow, which is affiliated with the Southeastern Institute of Research (SIR). (I worked for SIR about ten years ago.) Two days before Owens & Minor’s announcement, Managing Partner Matt Thornhill tweeted presciently, “Winning communities of tomorrow are 15-minute livable communities.”

By way of elaboration, he blogged about recent research conducted for the Virginia Secretary of Transportation. In a survey of 600 people around the U.S. who had just moved or were considering moving more than 100 miles, four out of five agreed with the statement, “Having access to stores, restaurants, and services close to my home (within about 15 minutes) is very important to me.” Almost as important was living withing a 15 minute commute of work.

It is often said that Millennials want to live “downtown” where it’s hip and cool and there are coffee shops and microbreweries. According to a recent Urban Land Institute study, though, only 37% of Millennial consider themselves to be a “city person,” wrote Thornhill; 36% classified themselves as “suburbanites” and 26% as “small town/country” people.

While there is nothing inevitable about Millennials wanting to live and work downtown, they are “hard-wired to be in community with each other,” Thornhill observed. “Thanks in part to doing school projects in teams from their middle school years onward, Millennials like to collaborate and trust in decisions made by the wisdom of the crowd. … They want neighborhoods where they can walk, bike, and use transit to get around.”

This community mindset, opined Thornhill, will drive the growth of “activity centers” of 15-minute livable communities. Activity centers don’t have to be in traditional cities (although most are).  “Builders, developers, urban planners, and government officials are now catching up to the changing preferences of consumers and looking for ways to in-fill activity centers across their metropolitan landscape.”

Thornhill stops his analysis there. But as I think about the Owens & Minor decision, it’s not clear that urban planners and government officials actually have gotten the message. While most of the City of Richmond fits the definition of a 15-minute walkable community, there are only flyspecks of walkability in neighboring Henrico and Chesterfield counties. In Henrico County the one area that potentially has the critical mass to compete with downtown Richmond, the Innsbrook Office Park, was rezoned for urban mixed use back in 2010. But re-development has stalled for more than six years due to inflexible application of the zoning code.

Absent a dramatic change of thinking and practice in the suburban counties, it looks like the future of the Richmond metropolitan region belongs to the city. Everything old is new again: Richmond possesses the key elements of walkability — moderate density, mixed uses, grid streets and timeless architecture — inherited from a past era of urban grandeur. The counties are stuck with suburban sprawl. Expect to see more headlines like Owen & Minor’s in the region’s future.

Many Virginians Prefer Training over Incentives

Graphic credit: VCU

The Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs has published a public opinion poll delving into Virginians’ attitudes toward a wide range of issues relating to K-12, higher ed, and workforce training. The poll appears to be methodologically sound. I will use the poll results as stepping stones to address several topics.

Workforce training: When asked how to prioritize the spending of state economic development dollars, according to the poll results shown above, Virginians were evenly split between expanding workforce training and education programs over providing financial incentives to recruit new business or retain existing business.

I construe these results as evidence of potentially strong public support for my proposal, elaborated upon here, to scrap the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Development Fund, which is used to dish out financial incentives to corporations expanding in Virginia, and beefing up the state’s targeted workforce training program. The idea: Instead of attracting corporations with cash, we entice them with a skilled workforce.

As I noted in that column, addressing the jobs-skills mismatch is arguably the greatest economic challenge facing Virginia today. If a corporation can’t find the workers it needs, it won’t consider a community no matter how big the incentives. Furthermore, it makes more sense to invest in Virginia workers than subsidizing out-of-state companies that may or may not be willing to make a long-term commitment to the state.

How Virginia’s Slowing Population Growth Plays Out Locally

Virginia's population growth is slowing, but four distinct patterns emerge within the state.

Virginia’s population growth is slowing overall, but four distinct patterns emerge within the state.

Speaking of slower population growth… Even though Virginia’s population growth is slowing overall, the dynamics play out differently at a local and regional level.

Luke Juday, director of planning for the City of Waynesboro, has developed a useful schema for examining Virginia’s cities and counties. He has created a matrix based on two variables: whether a locality is experiencing net in-migration or out-migration, and whether it is experiencing natural increase or natural decrease. Writing in the January 2017 issue of the Virginia News Letter, he describes four categories:

Booming. Booming localities are experiencing both in-migration and natural population increase. One sub-set of this group consists of central metropolitan areas such as Arlington County, and the cities of Alexandria, Charlottesville and Richmond, which are experiencing a renaissance fueled by waves of incoming young adults. Another sub-set is comprised of suburban or exurban counties experiencing significant in-migration. Three examples are Montgomery, Albemarle and Rockingham counties.

The great challenge for booming counties, writes Juday, is accommodating that growth. Providing room for an expanding population can keep housing prices from skyrocketing, thus avoiding future issues. On the other hand, these localities need to be sure that what they build withstands the test of time.

Shedding. Shedding communities continue to gain population through natural increase but are experiencing out-migration. Examples include Fairfax County, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton and Newport News. In some instances, the key driver is a high cost of housing and limited housing options that push young families out of the jurisdiction. In others, however, Juday suggests, inner cities may be affordable but they’re not desirable. The challenge is to find new ways to add housing and/or make the locality a more attractive place to live.

Attracting. These communities are losing population through natural decrease, yet still manage to attract in-migration. This pattern is particularly common in the New River, Central Piedmont, Blue Ridge and Chesapeake Bay areas that can exploit their natural beauty to attract older adults in compensation of lower birth rates.

Declining. Declining localities are experiencing both out-migration and natural decrease. Residents are aging, and no one is replacing them. These counties are concentrated in Southwest and Southside Virginia, with a smattering along the Blue Ridge. These jurisdictions face the greatest challenge. How do they promote economic development, and how do they maintain the level of government services?

Declining localities, suggests Juday, need to cope with eroding populations the same way that Youngstown, Ohio, did in the 1990s: planning for population decrease by structuring public service and infrastructure projects to be sustainable with a smaller population. Regional cooperation is one way to accomplish that aim.

For both attracting and declining communities, Juday also suggests linking to a nearby metropolitan area to entice highly educated and well-paid commuters to patronize local services and agricultural businesses. Such a strategy would likely be more successful than trying to attract new industry. Floyd County reversed population by attracting workers who enjoyed the county’s quality of life and commuted to the Blacksburg metropolitan area. Counties outside of Washington, D.C., have seen similar trends.

Similarly, these localities can find ways to serve metropolitan economies from afar, most obviously by attracting retirees and vacationers. The Chesapeake Bay counties, Blue Ridge counties, and counties around Smith Mountain Lake have reinvigorated local economies by appealing to outsiders who build and purchase homes.

Is Virginia Getting its Mojo Back?

Good news for Virginia ports: container cargo shipments increased 8.5% in 2016.

The Port of Virginia saw an 8.5% surge in container traffic in 2016, making it the fastest-growing port on the East Coast and second fastest in the country, trailing only Los Angeles, reports the Virginian-Pilot.

Said port Chairman Jon Milliken: “We outstripped other East Coast ports; we outstripped the West Coast ports. We outstripped everybody in terms of growth.”

The Pilot article does not explain the increase, but the growth coincided with major capital expansion programs designed to increase port throughput as well as the long-awaited opening of the Panama Canal expansion, which expedites the movement of deep-draft mega-ships. With the deepest channels of any East Coast port, Hampton Roads enjoys a competitive advantage in serving the big ships.

In other good economic news, as noted in Virginia FREE newsletter distributed this morning….

Swiss food confectioner giant Nestle S.A., has announced the move of its U.S. corporate headquarters from Glendale, California, to Arlington.

Air India has initiated nonstop service between Washington Dulles International Airport and Delhi.

Virginia’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.1%, even as the state’s labor force swelled by 17,000 workers as discouraged workers began re-entering the workforce.

Admittedly, the gains are all anecdotal. But pile together enough anecdotes, and they add up to a real trend.

Governors as Heroic Champions of the Economy

Ed Gillespie. Photo credit: Associated Press

Writing in the Richmond Times-Dispatch today, Bart Hinkle takes Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie to task for asserting that he’s going to shape a “dynamic economy that creates jobs” in contrast to the anemic economy under the tutelage of Democrat Terry McAuliffe. As Hinkle correctly observes, a governor’s actions have a limited impact on a state’s economy. Gillespie’s claims are as empty as those of McAuliffe, who takes credit for having overseen the creation of thousands of jobs during his administration.

When the federal government accounts for 30 percent of the state’s GDP, there is nothing that a governor of any partisan or ideological stripe can accomplish in three or four years to offset cuts to the defense, intelligence and homeland security sectors. As for the corporate-investment deals announced by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, to which every Virginia governor since time immemorial has attached himself, rare has been the instance in which a governor’s involvement proved decisive.

What governors can do is promote public policy that creates a more favorable business climate. Gillespie has some good ideas on that score — modernize the outdated tax code, repeal outdated regulations, and foster entrepreneurship and small business formation. But let’s be realistic. A case can be made that reforming the tax code could give a modest boost to Virginia economic growth, but Virginia’s tax code is business friendly already and any gains would be incremental. As for the repealing-outdated-regulations trope, every governor campaigns against red tape. But very few have the stomach for tackling the regulations backed by powerful constituencies that truly do stifle job creation, such as occupational licensing and the Certificate of Public Need.

As McAuliffe has said repeatedly, and as I have emphasized on this blog, tens of thousands of jobs are going unfilled in Virginia because companies cannot find employees with the skills to fill them. The job of equipping Virginians with  the requisite skills falls to the public sector, both K-12 schools and higher education. If a governor truly wants to be known as a “jobs” governor, he will it make his No. 1 priority to make government get better at its core mission of educating and training its citizens.

Government can do other important things, such as enabling the evolution of the built environment toward more cost-efficient human settlement patterns and creating a transportation system to serve it. To my mind, this would entail a market-driven shift to an Uber-flavored “smart growth” future. As in so many areas, the biggest obstacle is outdated regulations, particularly zoning codes. I blogged about that topic for years, but I despair that it is too esoteric for most of the voting population to understand, which means that it’s too esoteric for elected officials to care about.

In any case, overhauling K-12, higher ed, transportation and land use cannot be accomplished in a single gubernatorial term. It is the project of a generation, which means it requires a broad social consensus. We need to abandon the idea of governors (or presidents) as heroic champions who can single-handedly revive ailing economies. They can’t. They need to concentrate on what they can do.

Invest in Virginia Workers, Not Corporate Subsidies

Replace economic-development incentives with workforce training.

Replace economic-development incentives with workforce training. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

(The Richmond Times-Dispatch published my op-ed this morning.)

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), once one of the most respected economic development teams in the country, has been taking it on the chin. A year ago, a Chinese company bilked the partnership for a $1.4 million incentive payment in a deal that never transpired. The scandal prompted the departure of VEDP’s CEO and sparked a legislative inquiry that unearthed “systemic deficiencies” in its management.

In December, Gov. Terry McAuliffe proposed reforms to improve oversight of incentives, which amounted to $384 million over the past decade. Among his recommendations: Create new divisions within VEDP, one to administer the incentive programs and another to audit VEDP activities and report the findings directly to its board of directors.

I have a simpler idea. Instead of adding new layers of bureaucracy, eliminate the incentives altogether and use the money for workforce training.

Virginians have long had a love-hate relationship with economic development incentives, viewing them as an ugly necessity for competing with other states, most of which offer subsidies and tax breaks to lure corporate investment. The Old Dominion was one of the first states to make incentives contingent upon the recipient meeting benchmarks for dollars invested and jobs created. If a company fails to keep its promises, the state will claw back its payments.

But there’s a bigger problem that tighter administration of state incentive programs cannot solve: There is no way to tell if subsidies and tax breaks actually work.

Site location in the United States has evolved into a racket. When a corporation decides to expand, it typically hires a site consultant to scout the ideal location. It is common practice to narrow down the choice to two or three localities in different states and then to set them bidding against one another to offer the sweetest incentive package.

So many states dangle subsidies, grants, tax breaks and other kinds of bribes that companies would be negligent to not try to extract the biggest, fattest concession possible.

The trouble is that economic developers are bidding in the dark. The VEDP can make educated guesses, but it has no way of knowing exactly how much money it will take to sway a particular corporation to invest in Virginia, no way of knowing whether it gave away too much, indeed no way of knowing if a company would have invested in Virginia without an incentive package at all.

As it happens, the timing is perfect to re-think incentives. The VEDP board has hired Steven Moret, Louisiana’s former economic development chief and a superstar in the field, to run the organization. Key to his success was FastStart, a program he built into one of the nation’s premier workforce development initiatives. Moret should be given the resources to replicate the program in Virginia.

Once upon a time, VEDP had a respectable job-training program, which it offered as a perk to companies investing in the state. But the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJAP) has undergone considerable restructuring and reorganization over the past 20 years, and not to its benefit.

Between 2010 and 2014 it shrank from 16 operational and support personnel to six. While Louisiana was building a best-in-class workforce development initiative, Virginia was dismantling its own.

In an era of abundant capital and near-zero interest rates, reputable corporations can easily and cheaply borrow the money they need to expand. A much tougher task is finding a skilled workforce.

Many communities are out of the running for a wide range of economic development projects because their workers lack industry-specific skills. In Martinsville, for instance, the 6.8 percent unemployment rate is higher than almost anywhere in the state, yet in November local companies were complaining that they were having difficulty filling some 1,325 job openings.

If local companies can’t find the workers they need, what chance does Martinsville have in attracting out-of-state industry?

Addressing the jobs-skills mismatch is arguably the greatest economic challenge facing Virginia today. If a corporation can’t find the workers it needs, it won’t consider a community no matter how big the incentives.

Virginia’s colleges, community colleges and universities can do most of the heavy lifting on education and training, but they are not equipped to provide a fast-response, turnkey workforce solution like Louisiana’s FastStart program.

While the General Assembly ponders how to reform VEDP, it also needs to re-think the state’s economic-development incentives: Virginia needs to emphasize workforce development over subsidies and tax breaks.

Given the state’s current budget constraints, the most logical pot of money to fund a program like FastStart is the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Development Fund. We can continue doling out payola to out-of-state corporations or we can invest in Virginia’s workers, likely with a better result. It’s not a difficult choice.

VCU’s Impact on the Region: Talent, Innovation and Collaboration

Executive summary

Universities, as large organizations that are anchored in their communities, can potentially have significant economic and social impacts on the immediate community, the region, and even the state. Virginia Commonwealth University’s economic impact on the Richmond region is significant. Within the metropolitan statistical area (Richmond MSA), VCU’s spending on operations, maintenance and capital investment, and the spending of its employees, students and visitors generates:

  • Total economic impact of $4 billion
  • 47,000 jobs
  • A total Richmond regional multiplier of 3.7 — for every dollar that VCU spends in the metropolitan area, the region experiences a total economic impact of $3.70.

VCU’s impact on the economy of the commonwealth of Virginia is also significant. VCU’s spending within the commonwealth generates:

  • Total economic impact of $5.9 billion
  • 63,000 jobs
  • A total commonwealth of Virginia multiplier of 3.2 — for every dollar that VCU spends in the state, the commonwealth experiences a total economic impact of $3.20.

How is this impact achieved? As VCU and its employees, students and visitors spend money purchasing needed supplies, food and services, etc., the businesses that supply these goods and services must, in turn, purchase supplies and employ workers who, in turn, use their money to purchase goods and services. The size of the multiplier reflects the extent to which the dollars circulate in the economy.

But VCU’s impact in the region and commonwealth extends well beyond what is captured in the numbers. Through descriptive data, as well as focus groups and interviews with businesses, government agencies, nonprofits and other regional stakeholders, we identified VCU’s contributions in key areas that shape economic impact and the overall quality of life. These are:

Talent: VCU produces graduates whose skills meet the needs of area businesses and other organizations. As one business leader stated in a focus group, “VCU is the leader in the region’s talent pipeline.”

  • Within the Richmond metropolitan area, 67,000 VCU alumni live and work. Their degrees and skills lead to increases in the average wage, which enhances the economy overall.
  • Businesses, nonprofits and government agencies alike seek the cutting-edge solutions that VCU faculty research creates.

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Economic Development “Reset” Needed in Virginia

John O. "Dubby" Wynne wants to overhaul Virginia's outmoded approach to economic development.

John O. “Dubby” Wynne wants to overhaul Virginia’s outmoded approach to economic development. Photo credit: Pilotonline

It’s time for a “fundamental reset” for the way Virginia’s colleges and universities think about economic development, John O. “Dubby” Wynne told the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) board yesterday. Wynne, former CEO of Norfolk-based Landmark Communications, is a driving force behind the Virginia Go initiative.

“For the first time in decades, Virginia’s economy is not doing very well,” said Wynne. The problem runs deeper than federal budget sequestration’s hit to military spending or managerial issues at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Virginia needs to address major structural problems, he said.

One of those problems is the mismatch between jobs and skills in the state. Wynne quoted a figure widely used by Governor Terry McAuliffe, that 150,000 jobs in the IT sector alone are going unfilled; tens of thousands of those are in the cyber-security field. With skills shortages of that magnitude, it won’t be easy recruiting outside corporate investment, Virginia’s traditional economic development strength.

“If outside people see that you can’t take care of your existing businesses,” said Wynne, “the chances of them coming here are small.”

Since retiring from Landmark, Wynne has immersed himself in state and regional economic-development efforts. He serves as vice chairman on the state-appointed Council on Virginia’s Future and is a member of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council. He worked with Dominion CEO Tom Farrell to create the Go Virginia initiative, which has received state dollars this year to spur regional and public-private collaboration to spark economic growth.

Virginia needs to produce people who can participate in the knowledge economy, and the state’s higher ed system is critical to making that happen, Wynne said. It’s an open question, though, how well the state’s colleges and universities can make economic development part of their mission. There are so many stakeholders with a voice, he said, that “it’s very hard to get movement with any kind of market speed.” Higher ed needs “to get a serious discussion going to say that it’s OK to be involved in economic development.”

Aside from workforce development, Wynne cited two strategies for Virginia higher ed to pursue. One is to do a better job of getting intellectual property out of the labs and into the market. Other states have found ways to do this; so should Virginia. He would like to see more incubators and accelerators in university communities.

The other strategy is to identify industry clusters where Virginia has particular strengths and to help create a workforce with the skills those clusters need. Collaboration is the key. As an example, he cited a 40-firm cyber-security cluster in Hampton Roads. Local educational institutions need to develop “a new model” — possibly including more “self-paced” courses — in which local industry is much more involved. Already, three cities in the region are collaborating with a regional community foundation to raise money to build the cluster. Said Wynne: “Companies will move to places helping them grow.”

“If you put all your money in the present and none in the future,” he concluded, “you won’t have a future.”

How to Roll Back Regulations in Virginia

Does the Commonwealth of Virginia really need regulations to govern who gets to blow dry hair for a living ?

Does the Commonwealth of Virginia really need regulations to govern who gets to blow dry hair for a living?

A case study in regulation run amok: To earn a living blow drying customers’ hair in Virginia, one must acquire a license from the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation. To acquire such a license, one must attend an accredited cosmetology school, the average cost of which is $14,887 nationally, not counting the time value of 1,500 hours of training. Only after completing the school program and procuring a license can a budding blow drier embark upon a glorious career that pays an average of about $20,000 a year.

That is just one example of how excessive regulation hampers job seekers, restricts labor competition, protects entrenched special interests, and generally hobbles Virginia’s economy, according to Tyler Foote, Virginia state director of Americans for Prosperity, in a Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed today.

A dynamic economy continually introduces new products and services that get entangled in regulatory red tape. Sometimes the General Assembly wades in and deals with the problem, as it did by removing restrictions on food trucks from operating on Virginia-owned streets and, again, by creating an exemption from liquor laws so bed & breakfast guests can consume alcoholic beverages in shared spaces like living rooms and porches. (Foote also could have cited recent controversies over ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, taxation of Air BnB rentals, and retail restrictions on electric-vehicle manufacturer Tesla.)

Changing the law requires time and money, commodities in short supply for many entrepreneurs trying to build a business. But there is a remedy, says Foote. The Red Tape Reduction Act, sponsored by Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall, and Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, would require every new regulatory requirement be offset by eliminating two existing regulatory requirements until the regulatory baseline has been reduced 35%. Once that threshold has been met, new regulations would be offset by a one-for-one reduction.

Foote argues that the bill was inspired by a similar measure implemented by the Canadian province of British Columbia, which had labored under economic growth 1.9 percent lower than the Canadian average. Following implementation of the rule-cutting law, growth jumped to 1.1 percent above the average. (That barely sounds like it’s worth the trouble. Perhaps Foote means growth is now 1.1 percentage points higher, which indeed would be impressive.)

Bacon’s bottom line: I have railed for years how excessive regulation hurts entrepreneurship, small business formation and economic growth in Virginia. I like the idea of rolling back regulations, especially those that restrict competition. (I’m open to regulations protecting the public safety and health, as long as they are subject to a rigorous cost-benefit analysis.) However, I worry that the Webert-Freitas approach would be arbitrary and mechanistic.

I understand the logic that we need to create a meta-rule to govern the lesser rules and keep them in check. Without such a law, new regulations will proliferate without let-up. But how do we know the optimal number of regulations for Virginia? How do we know that the sweet spot is 35% fewer rules than what we have now? What if lawmakers encounter a situation that truly justifies new regulations but find themselves stymied by this new law?

The fact is, we live in a complex society that is becoming more complex. Technology creates new opportunities — and challenges — by the day. When the first mobile phones appeared, people thought of them as substitutes for telephones. Wow, you mean you can carry your phone around with you? Awesome! Who imagined that one day mobile phones would become packaged with software that allowed people to send text messages and, even more astonishingly, that many people actually would prefer that form of communication over talking to one another? Further, who imagined that one day “texting” while driving would cause so many accidents, injuries and fatalities that laws and regulations would have to be passed to curtail the behavior?

Texting was not a problem when good ol’ Ma Bell exercised a telephone monopoly. How’s that for irony. Breaking up ATT and freeing the telecommunications industry from suffocating regulations created one of the great surges of innovation in American history…. which in turn created the need to regulate previously unimaginable behavior.

I agree that many regulations are harmful, and I sympathize with Foote’s frustration. But I prefer the old-fashioned way of doing things: legislators rewriting laws one at time, giving careful consideration to each one.