2015 Winter Conference Highlight: Danielle Mahoney & “What is Ahead for Us with FutureWork”

The North Carolina Local Government Budget Association (NCLGBA) is a professional organization of people interested in the exchange of knowledge for individuals concerned with budget and evaluation responsibilities of local government.  

The Association’s main goals are:
• To strengthen communications and provide opportunities for professional growth and development through the exchange of ideas
• To investigate, study, discuss, and recommend improvements in the application of budget and evaluation methods
• To collect, compile, and distribute pertinent information about the administration of budget responsibilities
• To promote, sponsor, or conduct training and education programs through the participation in Association sponsored events and meetings

Conferences offer a variety of sessions that will broaden you thinking about how local government budgeting impacts North Carolina’s communities.  Become a member today and don’t miss the 2016 Summer Conference.

Below is a recap of one of our keynote sessions from the 2015 Winter Conference from Danielle Mahoney, Local Government Management Fellow at Lee County.


 

One of my favorite sessions from the NCLGBA Winter Conference was What is Ahead for Us with FutureWork, presented by Anita Brown-Graham, Director for the Institute of Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University. The presentation (view here) highlighted technological innovations that will emerge in North Carolina in the coming decades, illustrating a job landscape that will be radically changed from the one we know today.

Ms. Brown-Graham shared data that showed, by one estimate, the state of North Carolina could lose almost half of its existing jobs to technology by the year 2040. We’ve already seen this trend with manufacturing, and additional fields that are susceptible to be lost to automation include telemarketing, auditing, accounting, retail, and customer service. Furthermore, she explained that only three counties account for all of the innovation economy in the state: Mecklenburg, Durham, and Wake. So, what does this mean for local governments and our communities?

Conf Highlight Mahoney 1

I work for a county – Lee County in central NC. Our county manager once told me that the reason he prefers county government to city/town government is that counties take care of people who cannot take care of themselves – children, the elderly, those with disabilities, the disadvantaged, etc. Throughout Ms. Brown-Graham’s presentation, all I could think about was the number of people who will be eventually put out of work if the estimates she spoke of come to fruition. How will local governments take care of those in their communities who cannot work due to increased automation/technological advances? Will new departments be created? What about in counties like Lee, counties who do not make up the 66% of innovation economy in the state? Will these counties experience net out-migration and lose majority of their populations to Wake, Durham, and Mecklenburg? How will this affect growth, infrastructure, workplace housing, jobs, etc.? Ms. Brown-Graham said “there will not be shared prosperity across NC if we do not do something.” She also stated that half the students in colleges today will have careers that include occupations not now in existence. So, what do we do? How do we prepare for something that we do not even fully understand?

Being an early career professional in local government, I certainly do not have the answer. I’m not sure anyone has the answer, at least not right now. But, it’s important to be aware of this data and begin to have conversations with our community leaders. In local government, we want to plan in a safe zone – typically one, three, and five years out. We need to start planning for ten and twenty years out. We need to engage our regional councils of government, as well as our partners in the private and nonprofit sectors in collaboration to begin thinking about these important issues and what we can do now to ensure our communities thrive in the future.

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While we may not have the answer, I’ve found that local government professionals are extremely adaptable. If the conversation can at least get started – if we are aware of this impending change and how it may affect our local communities – we will be prepared to adapt accordingly. I hope we see this information presented at more local government conferences, that regional task forces are formed from across the state to address this issue, and that our leaders in local government take charge before it is too late.