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Showing posts from February, 2014

Economic Development, Real Economic Development

The question is often asked: "At what level does 'real' economic development take place?"
My answer: All levels. 
From the perspective of business attraction, retention, and capacity planning, every entity plays an important role. Federal agencies, state economic development departments, county development authorities, port development authorities, chambers of commerce, county governments, local governments, quasi-government entities, downtown development authorities, main street boards, and other organizations assisting in providing services for businesses.
No one organization is more important than the other and no one organization can succeed alone. Relationships are the heart and soul of economic development. 
State governments and county development authorities usually take the lead on large investment projects (mostly industrial in nature).
County and local governments are the go-to organizations for zoning, building and fire code enforcement, water and sewer. 

Less is More

How does a small, local business compete with a multi-national corporation? How does Mr. Local's Coffee Shop compete with Starbucks? The answer is simple. Uniqueness.

A Starbucks is a Starbucks is a Starbucks. The exteriors differ and menus vary slightly, but largely, there's no differentiation between a Starbucks in Detroit, Boston, Atlanta, or your local Starbucks.

Mr. Local's Coffee Shop has only one location. To taste his rich house blend or tasty mocha, you have to go to his one location to get it. There is no other place in the world that makes his flavor. It is unique.

You can go just about anywhere in the US to grab a coffee from Starbucks. But for Mr. Local's coffee, you can only go to his location. There is no place like his. In that regard, Mr. Local's Coffee Shop is unique. The uniqueness alone guarantees repeat customers and clientele who enjoy his blends and realize that there is only one Mr. Local's Coffee Shop. Less becomes more.

By no means am …

Water & Sewer: Bread & Butter

Water and sewer can be considered the bread and butter of economic and community development. They are extremely important infrastructure for every community. Taking nothing from other elements of infrastructure, water and sewer are must-haves.

When you turn your sink on, you expect water. When you flush the toilet, you expect waste disposal. Residences and businesses will always need operating water and sewer.

Because water mains and sewer pipes are underground, they can be easily neglected. However, decades of no maintenance can lead to pipes busting creating a mess that costs thousands in repairs.

Water and sewer are critical pieces of effective economic development. Communities that invest regularly in maintenance and upgrades will find themselves in good shape for retaining and attracting businesses.

Annexation and Rezoning

Annexation and rezoning. Both relate to changing the meaning of land.

Annexation is bringing a parcel of land into city limits. Rezoning is changing the legal permitted use of a parcel of land.

Annexations are how cities grow, officially. The new parcels contribute tax revenues and increase demand for local services, such as fire and police. Rezoning helps cities plan and decide what activities they want where to keep citizens happy. For example, if a city wanted to change the use of a particular area in a city from residential to commercial, they would submit a rezoning request.

Typically local or county Planning Commissions discuss and recommend annexations and rezoning requests. Ultimately, City Council or the County Board of Commissioners make the final decisions on annexations and rezoning requests.

The Shopping Cart Index

It's Round 2 of SnowJam 2014 in Georgia. This presents an opportune time to present a new idea I like to call the Shopping Cart Index or "Buggy" Index.

It is based on the observation of expectation and positive correlation.

When we expect bad weather or rising prices on food, we make a mad dash for the grocery store. Even if bad weather never happens or prices don't rise, we still rush to the stores in expectation of scarcity or bad conditions.

Yesterday in anticipation of wintry weather, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a State of Emergency in 45 of Georgia's 159 counties before a single snowflake ever touched the ground. His announcement triggered a number of buying behaviors across the state. Most people headed for grocery stores and gas stations.

By the time I left work and arrived at Kroger, there were only a few shopping carts available at the entrance. Most of them were being used. This is in positive (or direct) correlation with the number of shopper…

Retail or Rooftops: Which Comes First?

The chicken or the egg, which comes first? It's the $10 million dollar question. In economic development we ask ourselves which comes first: retail or rooftops? What sparks city growth, more retail establishments or more housing units?
First and foremost, there must be jobs. People go where the jobs are. Housing develops where people are. Retail follows h_u_e_ (you got it!). The development chain always begins with people. 
The conversion of rural areas and quaint communities into buzzing suburbs is the result of people desiring to live in quieter and less-congested areas outside of the city. These suburban cities take on identities of their own. The pilgrimage of new residents to the suburbs creates retail demand. Once established, retail attracts more retail.
In conclusion, people trigger the development cycle. No people means no rooftops. No rooftops means no retail.

Incentive Impact

For the very first time in my career, I am responsible for administering an incentive. In this particular case, it is an Enterprise Zone, tax abatements for up to ten years for locating within a certain geographic area. 
By and large it is hard work, but I believe it is well worth the effort; especially when businesses begin utilizing it for job creation and improving their facilities.
Incentives, of any kind, should be used to close deals, increase competitiveness (for the community and the business), and spur economic activity within a certain geographic area. 
Here are a few unexpected matters I encountered while getting the incentive in place. If you are considering adopting an incentive for your area, please consider the following: Quantify, Quantify, Quantify. Forecast and/or obtain private investment, taxes abated, number of jobs created, salaries, type of jobs created, number of people hired inside the community vs. employees transferred in.Forecast the Payback Period. Have an …