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Economist warns that regulations may be stifling growth

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CASHMERE — The rate of population growth in North Central Washington trails much of the state, an economist and lobbyist for the national home building industry has warned. And it could be due to what he says may be too many government regulations that have stalled business development and the jobs that come with it.

Elliot Eisenberg, a Washington, D.C.-based lecturer, told a local group of business and civic leaders that they need to figure out what keeps businesses and people from moving here — and that city, county and state regulations are a good place to start. Every year, Eisenberg speaks on this subject to dozens of groups around the U.S.

He spoke here Oct. 10 at a dinner sponsored by two housing industry groups, Building North Central Washington and the North Central Washington Association of Realtors.

You need to keep in mind that even well-intended government regulations can have unintended long-range effects,” he said in an interview. “You’ve got to watch the making of government policies and laws — remember that regulation always has its costs.”

One of those costs in NCW, he said, may be the declining rate of population growth over the last 15 years in Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties. Noting statistics compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis, he said that while populaton in the three-county area was still growing, the rate of growth lags behind other cities in the state.

Eisenberg said there’s no “silver-bullet solution that’ll correct the problem.” The answer, he said, lies in monitoring government policies and laws to make sure they encourage rather than hinder business growth.

The economist urged local leaders to make sure any new government policies or regulations contain measurable goals, concrete costs and a “sunset provision” to provide a pause in the regulation for reevaluation.

In NCW, regulations should be written to encourage agriculture, health care, education, tourism and manufacturing, said Eisenberg. “Ask yourselves if proposed legislation makes your region a more appealing place to live,” he said. “Think of it this way: No more self-inflicted wounds —does a regulation harm us? Or does it help us?

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business. follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.