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The Ben Franklin Partnership wins more money from the state, but is the program worth the cost?
OAKLAND - With Gov. Tom Ridge cutting taxes and tightening spending, an economic development program that receives mere money must work, right?
At the Ben Franklin Partnership, it's hard to tell.
The partnership, and its local outlet, the Ben Franklin Technology Center of Western Pennsylvania, are to receive a portion of a $2.7 million increase in development spending in the new state budget.
But the method the local center uses to track the success of its Challenge Grant Program for Technological Innovation - job creation - is under attack.
So the Ridge administration, while funneling more money to Ben Franklin, has derided its tool for measuring success as "insufficient," and is searching for a replacement.
"What we...lack is an effective method of evaluating economic development programs," said Martha Harris, the state's deputy Commerce secretary overseeing economic development.
"It's very difficult to evaluate the cause and effect of these programs," agreed Harold Miller, deputy executive director of the Allegheny Conference and the …