Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Aquarium and Zoo Privatization

Can the private sector run an aquarium or zoo better than the state?

Here are two articles: one from the Star News Online from February 14, 2012, and the other from The Freeman Online published nearly ten years ago, in 1993. The juxtaposition of the two articles is a reminder that the fiscal troubles state governments' are facing are by no means novel.

In the first article: State Eyeing Privatization for Aquariums, describes North Carolina's proposal to outsource aquarium and zoo operations. The author is skeptical whether privatizing the state's aquariums is a good move for aquarium patrons and whether the privatization will actually cost the state any less tax dollars in the end. The author points out that, "North Carolina is the only Southeastern state that owns and operates an aquarium or a zoo, and that Minnesota is the only other state in the country that owns and operates a zoo at all . . ."

The second article: Zoo, Inc., diverges from the first by taking an optimistic view of zoo and aquarium privatization as an answer to a state's budget shortfalls. The article points out the pros of financial independence in zoo management and the history of private zoos in America.

While it is unclear in the first article whether North Carolina plans to partner with the private company long term or whether the goal is for the aquariums to be completely self-supporting. The second article brings a perspective (though dated) to these unanswered questions.

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