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Thread: Economic development in a former small farm town/now bedroom community

  1. #1
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Economic development in a former small farm town/now bedroom community

    Well, I had applied for a Planning Commissioner position in the small town where I reside. I did not get it; however, the town had phoned me this very morning saying they want me to serve on a new Economic Devlopment board. I said I would be very interested, but I have to admit: What the heck can we do?

    Background: This town serves as a small bedroom community of new homes mainly priced from $150k-$900k. The business in the town include a bar, gas station (with new gas station being built), small strip commercial with a liquor store, pizza place, and salon; as well as a couple banks.
    Through the grapevine I have heard that we are trying to attract a small grocer, and maybe some other commercial. But that seems about it. I have no knowledge of a desire to attract industry/employment centers.

    Where do I start?
    Are there any good references that can help?
    What sort of things would fit well in a town like this?

    I see myself conducting a lot of surveys in the future...
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  2. #2
    Cyburbian yesteryear's avatar
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    Questions:

    In terms of economic development do you know if the city is interested in larger development such as industry, or creating a retail/entertainment destination? I suppose if you are located near a large city the latter might fall flat because folks are most likely going to just drive into 'town'... but it's a possibility.

    Is the town "brand new", meaning is it one of those developer created housing tracts that are springing up? I ask because if there are traces of an older town there, maybe an old main street - something 'neighborhood-y', you could begin by sparking interest in a historical themed revitalization.

    You're right about the surveys. Three to begin - one for business owners, one for commercial property owners and one for residents. A parcel inventory might be good too - if land is even zoned at this point. For attraction purposes, a database of available properties and their current zoning will make things a lot easier for prospective business folks.

    I like this website a lot:

    http://www.cdtoolbox.net/




    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN
    Well, I had applied for a Planning Commissioner position in the small town where I reside. I did not get it; however, the town had phoned me this very morning saying they want me to serve on a new Economic Devlopment board. I said I would be very interested, but I have to admit: What the heck can we do?

    Background: This town serves as a small bedroom community of new homes mainly priced from $150k-$900k. The business in the town include a bar, gas station (with new gas station being built), small strip commercial with a liquor store, pizza place, and salon; as well as a couple banks.
    Through the grapevine I have heard that we are trying to attract a small grocer, and maybe some other commercial. But that seems about it. I have no knowledge of a desire to attract industry/employment centers.

    Where do I start?
    Are there any good references that can help?
    What sort of things would fit well in a town like this?

    I see myself conducting a lot of surveys in the future...

  3. #3
    Cyburbian michiganplanner's avatar
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    is there an echo in here?

    ^
    echo.

    and,
    Some sort of industrial component will be key at some point. What they(industrial) pay in taxes and the services they recieve is not an upside down equation like residential areas and the level of services they recieve. I have seen reports of residential areas requiring up to 4 times the amount (cost) in services than what they add to the tax rolls, where the same reports detail industrial centers pay far more in taxes than what services they recieve. Make sense?

    Boomtown USA by Jack Schultz is a decent read and might help you sound knowledgeable enough to impress some folks.
    I'd be more apathetic if I weren't so lethargic.

  4. #4

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    Which town? Almost all of those little Front Range towns have some history that may or may not be helpful.

    If your goal is to have a real "downtown," and you are competing with Fort Collins, etc., it is going to take a lot of work. You need to check out the National Main Street Center.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm.....

    I would agree with others about the industrial uses being a good thing to focus on....
    Check on the availability of economic zones and other incentive programs that might be available. Try to undercut the surrounding communities through special incentives, tax breaks and expedited procedures... Sounds like fun, sometimes there isn't enough "fun" in this business from the government side..... GO FOR IT
    Skilled Adoxographer

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The place you are talking about is going to have a hard time putting together any sort of viable economic development program. An idiosycracy of the Front Range area in which you live (and I used to live) is that the developers do almost everything. They own the land and put up the spec buildings. Right now, vacancies are still high enough that there is not a whole lot of interest in building in these smaller communities. As far as attracting retail goes, you may have a little more success there, but again only through developers. Sadly, the role of communities is hardly more than approving the obscene incentives the developers want in return for putting up the strip malls. Are the incentives needed? No, certainly not. But the developers know how to play the game far more effectively than communities, which fight each other for the sales taxes.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  7. #7
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    A good start is to define what you would really want. It's amazing how many cities don't set goals.

    Next, having set goals, look at the strongest economic force in the community. Sounds like it is housing. See if you can get that force to support the rest of the goals. (impact fees, mandatory use requirements like residential over business, inclusionary housing fees, etc.) If there is a strong community vision, you can often get the planning to superscede standardized development.

    Finally, if you have a vision, you can write an ordinance to implement it. Too often, there is a vision trying to be implemented by an ordinance prepared by a consultant, who used sections from a neighboring town, that copied another neighboring town -- with the root document written in 1967.

  8. #8

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    Have a defined and attainable goal

    The community should have some sort of vision or goal for itself and hopefully that will be spelled out to the new Board or else you will be taking stabs in the dark at a balloon five miles above your head. A clear vision is important. The National Main Street orgainization will have alot of good information for you regarding business retention and attraction as well as how to overall get the community involved. Alot of brainstorming with fellow Board members will help also. Are you trying to keep people from leaving the community or simply trying to attract new people in? In order to keep people from leaving the community the community has to offer some basic "life" staples, like a grocery store, movies theatre or some sort of entertainment, clothes stores and such.

    Otherwise, check out the National Main Street websites to get some more ideas. Depending on the state you are in the State Department of Commerce or Industry can help or State level Tourism Departments and places like that.

    Good Luck!



    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN
    Well, I had applied for a Planning Commissioner position in the small town where I reside. I did not get it; however, the town had phoned me this very morning saying they want me to serve on a new Economic Devlopment board. I said I would be very interested, but I have to admit: What the heck can we do?

    Background: This town serves as a small bedroom community of new homes mainly priced from $150k-$900k. The business in the town include a bar, gas station (with new gas station being built), small strip commercial with a liquor store, pizza place, and salon; as well as a couple banks.
    Through the grapevine I have heard that we are trying to attract a small grocer, and maybe some other commercial. But that seems about it. I have no knowledge of a desire to attract industry/employment centers.

    Where do I start?
    Are there any good references that can help?
    What sort of things would fit well in a town like this?

    I see myself conducting a lot of surveys in the future...

  9. #9
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Thanks for all the responses. I have just been contacted by the town and will provide details as to what they are having us do when I get them later this week.

    All the information that was provided will help, at least to get the ball rolling. And then we'll see what people want.

    I ahve the feeling that this'll be a tough challenge but something I want to try.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  10. #10
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    I have finally been contacted by the town where I live. I begin serving on the Econ Development board in August. As far as objectives or processes, I haven't a clue. But one thing I do know, I see this as being a very challenging endeavor and I look forward to giving it a shot.

    I am trying not to see it as "Another item on the resume" but future plans may limit this as such.

    As soon as I know what we are expected to accomplish, I should have tons more questions.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Economic Development is more than just attracting new companies its about improving the economic condition of the community and its citizens.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Question:
    So... is it more or less the accepted planning wisdom that the best way to get economic growth is through good amenities.infrastructure/regualtions rather than cherry-picking specific comapnies to relocate. Or is that still being debated?
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    Question:
    So... is it more or less the accepted planning wisdom that the best way to get economic growth is through good amenities.infrastructure/regualtions rather than cherry-picking specific comapnies to relocate. Or is that still being debated?
    I think that as far as "planning wisdom" goes, people recognize the power of infrastructure and amenities... especially in many fast-growing places in the West, where all a community seems to need to do to get the growth ball rolling is put in an airport and wait for the retirees and footloose professionals to begin the migration.

    the reality on the ground with many struggling communities, however, is that many are still wishing, 50 or 25 or 10 years later, that the mine will reopen, that the mill will start up again, that the new factory will come to town... and you better believe that new companies, looking for breaks from local regulations, perpetuate that way of looking at things.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Maybe some towns should just settle down and PLAN for decline, much like a person plans for their retirement, rather than assume they'll remain vigorous forever.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    Maybe some towns should just settle down and PLAN for decline, much like a person plans for their retirement, rather than assume they'll remain vigorous forever.
    i actually spent a little time in a community in central montana that was about to die out- they knew it and what they were interested in was "dying with dignity". It was a pretty amazing place- they knew what they were up against and mainly just wanted to have places to gather, to have some pride, etc... so they ended up forming a small co-op with the town diner, having various functions (like 80 mile bike races) to raise money, holding annual prairie-dog shoots (which drew an amazing amount of people and a huge amount of revenue)... nobody was going to move there and agricultural was dying out- and they knew it- but they were definitely forming a community that was more powerful than anything that had been there in 50 years.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    Question:
    So... is it more or less the accepted planning wisdom that the best way to get economic growth is through good amenities.infrastructure/regualtions rather than cherry-picking specific comapnies to relocate. Or is that still being debated?
    Finding large employters is difficult. Less than 20 projects emerge a year that employ over 500 people and you have 23,000 economic development organzations chasing them and thats not even counting Canada or Mexico. Trying to attract large companies is often referred to Buffalo hunting. You live off the spoils of the kill until the meat runs out and you are back to hunting more buffalo. The analogy works even better since there are few buffalo left in the wild just like there are few large projects.

    The best solution for economic growth is a combination strategy. First you focus on retaining you current businesses and encouraging them to expand. Next work with them to keep spin of businesses and have them work to attract their suppliers to the region. If you are going to hunt look for gazelles or small but fast growing companies twhose fiorms work is the same or similiar to the competitive advatage of your town. To answer your question amenties do matter greatly to but they should be taylored to the existing business needs and the needs of the employees. In my experience businesses like transparency and predictablity from the planning process. If they jump through your hoops they want a fast and simple approval.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  17. #17
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Alas, this dialog is helping form some themes in my mind to go over. Perhaps some things to mention come the commencement of this gig.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

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