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Thread: Tools of economic development

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Tools of economic development

    The article “Money Matters” in the February 2005 issue of Planning stated that there is a big disconnect between planning and economic development. After reading it, I started to think about what planners do to truly encourage economic development within their community. I also realized that in many cases it is more about regulation then encouragement, and there is not a lot of marketing that takes place to contract and attract new businesses to the community.

    What do you, or your office, do in the way of Economic Development?
    What tools do you use to encourage development, while regulating its integration into the existing landscape?
    Do you feel that planners can do a better job of encouraging economic development?
    "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. Time makes more converts than reason." - Thomas Paine Common Sense.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    What do you, or your office, do in the way of Economic Development?
    What tools do you use to encourage development, while regulating its integration into the existing landscape?
    Do you feel that planners can do a better job of encouraging economic development?
    We have an economic development dept. that we work closely with. We ask for input from them on most planning matters, particularly on capital improvement projects and commercial developments. It is has been a rocky relationship with some, but is starting to get a bit better. The ED guys seem to think that we should bend over backwards for developers when we have a major application on hand, but then seem to support our postions on ordinance rewrites when there is not a major development occurring. Of course, they are also the first to recommend a change when a major development doesn't like a certain regulation.

    One thing that I think is vital is having enough background support for planning decisions. I have often seen planners be unable to effectively state their position and the reasons for their position and they have a hard time drumming up support for their position. It seems like ED guys have a better understanding of marketing and do a better job of it.

    As far as tools go, we mainly use our CIP to foster ED. having adequate infastructure is vital, not the end all, but very important. Everything that we do can be tied back to ED (including code enforcement, adequate housing supply, access management, etc).

    Of course planners can do a better job at encouraging ED. Creating a stable environment for investments should be a major goal of every community.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian michiganplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    The article “Money Matters” in the February 2005 issue of Planning stated that there is a big disconnect between planning and economic development. After reading it, I started to think about what planners do to truly encourage economic development within their community. I also realized that in many cases it is more about regulation then encouragement, and there is not a lot of marketing that takes place to contract and attract new businesses to the community.
    I've not made it a secret that I am not a planner as my Cyburbia handle indicates (I chose it so that I could infiltrate, assimilate, and rule...but I digress).

    Being an Economic Developer, I can say that, without a doubt, the resources to attract new businesses and keep them here (atleast here in Michigan) are non existent. Yes, municipalities have the Tax-Abatement tool, but there are larger/institutional issues here that handcuff economic development.

    Having seen many Site Location Specialist/Manager's criteria/matrices for site location I know that incentives are relativley low on a company's wish list when they look to locate in an area. Labor force generally ranks among the cost of doing business when businesses look to locate. Here in Michigan there is no shortage of a workforce, but the strong union presence means that the workforce comes at a premium.

    I could go on for days...But to answer your specific questions.

    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    What do you, or your office, do in the way of Economic Development?
    What tools do you use to encourage development, while regulating its integration into the existing landscape?
    Do you feel that planners can do a better job of encouraging economic development
    I am an economic developer....nuff said
    With my office lumped in with the planning/zoning/code enforcement I can say that we work together when regulations/restrictions could cause a financial strain on the company or an issue with surrounding residents. The quicker we can work together to identify issues the better chances we have at an outcome that satisfies all parties.
    Yes, planners can do a better job of encouraging economic development. I work to limit the ambiguity of some of our zoning designations, make it easier for small businesses to start and grow given certain regulations (not every business is immediately huge, most successful businesses started with a guy/gal, their dream and their garage).

    Did I say that I could go on and on?
    I'd be more apathetic if I weren't so lethargic.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michiganplanner

    Did I say that I could go on and on?
    Please do.
    "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. Time makes more converts than reason." - Thomas Paine Common Sense.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    No doubt, there is a disconnect. It is a bigger issue in some communities than it is in others. It also goes both ways.

    Planners often fail to recognize their community's economic development goals. They tend to be more focused on issues like deisgn and uses. At worst they are merely regulators. On the other hand, economic developers often have no appreciation for aesthetics or the arrangement of uses in a community. Both professions have knowledge that is useful to the other, but they seldom really share it.

    The most useful thing I ever did was work with the planning director to shepherd projects through the planning process. We made clear the requirements, and more importantly, key issues of the plan board ahead of time. We looked at the rules as something that could be changed if the project was significant or if an idea had merit. The response we receved from the development community was wonderful, and the plan board similarly felt good about what this approach produced.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    Cyburbian michiganplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    Please do.
    But I don't think I could have said it better myself.
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Planners often fail to recognize their community's economic development goals. They tend to be more focused on issues like deisgn and uses. At worst they are merely regulators. On the other hand, economic developers often have no appreciation for aesthetics or the arrangement of uses in a community. Both professions have knowledge that is useful to the other, but they seldom really share it.
    Cardinal's points about economic developers often having no appreciation for aesthetics or arrangement of uses in a community is something that this economic developer is trying to take head on.

    To me, if I land a big box in my community then big deal. From a job creation standpoint it might be ok (a big box does employ people after all). But what have I really done? I attracted a massive, ugly, one design fits all monstrocity. The size of the building and traditional design and building tools and techniques are not that good for the environment. And it could be addding yet another curb cut to an overly strained road system that may or may not be able handle the traffic count. And if it can handle the traffic count that is not to say that it does so effectively.

    What if I land a manufacturing company? The situation doesn't really improve a whole lot. The design will be bland....well, it'll be as exciting as a 100,000+ sq ft steel building can be. Don't expect the company to use innovative techiques to deal with water run off from the building or parking lot. Plenty of asphalt baby!
    The detention pond will look good fenced in and it will provide a waterfront selling point to the realtors listing the houses in the neighborhood immediately adjacent to the site.

    Bottom line, we economic developers can get a little hung up on "the deal." We need to be reaching out to planners as much as planners need to be reaching out to us.
    I'd be more apathetic if I weren't so lethargic.

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    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    This community has set their goal to have an economic development person to also do zoing, they just didn't know how bad their zoning had been handled and that until they get some control of that, there is not much that can be done to attract knew business. Infrastructure is a top priority before we can bring in business.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

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    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    My department is the Planning & Economic Development Department. We do what we can to assist businesses in locating and thriving here, but there aren't a lot of tools (outside of TIF districts) that can be used in NH. No incentives, no tax abatements, nothing.

    What we "sell" people on is quality of life, access to major transportation amenities, and our educated workforce. We're also very upfront with people about what the expectations are from the planning standpoint (strict regulations, design standards, and traffic impact requirements). What we find is that we get good businesses to loacte here, and the marginal ones look elsewhere.....which is fine with us.

    It also helps that we aren't so desperate for Econ Dev that we need to go after everything and anything.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner
    My department is the Planning & Economic Development Department. We do what we can to assist businesses in locating and thriving here, but there aren't a lot of tools (outside of TIF districts) that can be used in NH. No incentives, no tax abatements, nothing.
    Don't sell yourself short. I firmly believe that the most effective economic development strategy is to create a community where businesses want to be. There are many factors, including economic conditions, desirable housing and neighborhoods, shopping and entertainment, quality schools, labor force, environment, and etc., that go into creating such a place. Planners have a central role in bringing them about.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  10. #10
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Don't sell yourself short. I firmly believe that the most effective economic development strategy is to create a community where businesses want to be. There are many factors, including economic conditions, desirable housing and neighborhoods, shopping and entertainment, quality schools, labor force, environment, and etc., that go into creating such a place. Planners have a central role in bringing them about.
    I agree entirely....and frankly am disgusted by the econ dev "strategy" of a lot of places that seem willing to give away the world to attract businesses through abatements and tax incentives. I love working in an environment where the quality of the community is the deciding factor, not how much you can give to the business to locate there.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  11. #11
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    A tool I wish I had: "Free College for all Kalamazoo Public School Students"

    If only every town in Michigan could follow these benevolent leaders.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner
    A tool I wish I had: "Free College for all Kalamazoo Public School Students"

    If only every town in Michigan could follow these benevolent leaders.
    If you were the owner of a business would you relocate to the Zoo because of this? How much weight do you think that this would have on your decision to relocate or start new in the Zoo?
    Last edited by michaelskis; 30 Jan 2006 at 3:43 PM.
    "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. Time makes more converts than reason." - Thomas Paine Common Sense.

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    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    My position include economic development practice for political reasons - the town wants a balance

    There are subtle things you can do as a planner to help economic development - I try to make it easier for projects that the Town wants to get through the permitting process quickly - permit streamlining

    for instance, in the downtown area, we don't require alot of review for commercial and resdiential developments because we want to keep them there and encourage rehab and even demo/rebuild if necessary - we just require aesthetic review (which elicits enough complaints)

    uses in the rural zones that are commercial are held to more of a scrutiny and higher standards - i have a village in the outlying area that wants to create a village center, so small commercial operations that lessen their front setbacks will be streamlined

    i think planners generally "get it" - our mission is more conflicted becasue we have to serve everyone - if you are an economic development director, often (not always, so don't flame me) you don't have those "pesky" abutters and environmental groups on your case like we do

    the nice thing about economic develoment is that, at least in the resort/tourist sector, the practice respects that if you lose what is special, what people come visit to see, then your economy will tank as the industry is so competitive, people will go someplace else - it's now termed sustainable tourism (it's amazing what we get paid to do, isn't it?)

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    If you were the owner of a cooperation would you relocate to the Zoo because of this? How much weight do you think that this would have on your decision to relocate or start new in the Zoo?
    I'd think that this would have a holistic impact on the Zoo. Increased demand for housing would improve housing values and make opportunities for infill housing. With more housing units and people in the City, there would be more opportunity for small businsesses (diners, coffee shops, party stores (Michigan vernacular for liquor store), and other services.

    In terms of a major job producer, the plant (or office) will still go where they can get the best deal on land and taxes, so I doubt this would hurt places like Portage, Comstock and area townships.

    This month's issue (Feb 2006) of planning has a feature article about what K'zoo's School district's windfall and what it will mean to the area.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 23 Feb 2006 at 1:33 PM.

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    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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