Triangle think tank shuts down on McCrory's recommendation

rchristensen@newsobserver.comSeptember 16, 2013 

The Southern Growth Policies Board, a think tank based in the Triangle for more than 40 years, is being dissolved on the recommendation of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.

Since 1971, the board, which was the brainchild of former Gov. Terry Sanford, has spun out reports on how to improve the economy of the South by addressing such subjects as innovation and technology, globalization and the changing nature of the workforce.

But in July, McCrory, the chairman of the board, suggested the organization be dissolved and absorbed into the Southern Governors’ Association. McCrory’s recommendation was unanimously adopted by the group’s board, said Ted Abernathy, the board’s executive director. Board members represent the 12 southern states that have supported the organization.

“To strengthen both organizations, it was decided that the Southern Governors’ Association would start doing policy and research as part of their work,” Abernathy said. “The board voted to dissolve the interstate compact for growth, and the southern governors will integrate some of the work into their activities. We have officially ceased as an organization.”

The policies board went out of existence Sept. 9. The last four professional staff members will lose their jobs on Sept. 30. Two were previously laid off in June in preparation for the shutdown. The policies board will close its offices in Research Triangle Park.

Kim Genardo, McCrory’s spokeswoman, said the governor was interested in achieving efficiencies that could be accomplished by consolidating the two organizations.

In a letter to the think tank’s trustees, McCrory wrote, “as many of you are aware, the participation in and financial support of our various southern organizations by state government executives, including Southern Growth, has been a challenge in recent years. Constraints on state budgets as well as the burdens on gubernatorial schedules and staff requires everyone to continually reevaluate their commitments.

“I concluded that this challenge can only be resolved by consolidating our regional investments,” McCrory wrote. “I am confident that the synergies these two organizations have enjoyed over the years offer a sufficiently conducive environment for a successful consolidation.”

Abernathy said there had been discussions about shutting down the growth policies board over the last few years.

“I think over the years, it’s become a natural thing for people to look for efficiencies in government,” Abernathy said. “Governors’ times have become more demanding on them. It was felt it was way to strengthen SGA.”

The think tank had a $1 million budget, funding for which was shared among Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, as well as through corporate, nonprofit and academic institutions.

Among other things, the think tank produced an annual Future of the South report, an in-depth look at the issues facing the region. Its last report, “ Re-Imagining Workforce Development,” was released at a Sept. 6 conference in Louisville, Ky.

Christensen: 919-829-4532

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