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Thread: Chicken or egg? Jobs or residents?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Chicken or egg? Jobs or residents?

    A problem in our town, and I suspect in many smaller communities is deciding the right strategy for economic development. It seems to me that most still pursue businesses that will bring jobs, but maybe they ought to look more at recruiting residents. We have a 95,000 sq ft industrial building we have been trying to fill and one of the big hurdles is the laborshed studies in the immediate area. It brings up the question as to what is the right strategy. We are 30 miles from a decent sized metro that has a lot of growth and projected growth. It would seem to me that marketing to that area and selling our smaller, in town school district plus our Main Street, Aquatic Center, and generally safer small town life make more sense than trying to hook some business while you have a questionable labor shed report. Thoughts?

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    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    I'm no ED pro, but I would target residential until you get a critical mass of population that you can pull in some decent jobs. If nothing else, while the residential is growing there will be an increase of service and retail jobs. One of the things the industries kind of like for their employees. I say it's okay to be a bedroom community. Just don't lose sight of what you are.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    An identified issue in rural KS is the lack of suitable housing. Small towns cannot recruit a school superintendent because there is no desirable housing. Several locales have gone into the subdivision/construction business as an answer. While the results are mixed, it has generally been positive.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    You are caught between two problems.

    The first is that the idea of a rural branch manufacturing plant to take advantage of low wages has moved out of favor. Businesses have come to realize that often, the people you get to work jobs starting at $12 to $15 per hour are not going to be the people you want. And while there was sufficient numbers of workers in the 80's and 90's, that is no longer true. From a site selection perspective we have not been seeing much interest in rural locations for the past decade.

    Many people do want to live outside of the "big city". But those people moving into the rural hinterland want ten acres, or a lot on the river. They are far less likely to be attracted to a subdivision 30 miles from the city than they would be to a similar subdivision at the edge of the city.
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    I realize that its difficult. That said, what is the alternative? We need to go with the strategy that offers the best chance of success. The corridor area, roughly 30 miles to our east is projected to grow by 95,000 people by 2040. We just need to capture some of that.

    Its no so much a subdivision we are recruiting people to. Its more about small town life. We offer a fairly safe environment with amenities like a grocery, a movie theatre, a newer aquatic center, a school district in town that does not require distant busing, and a lower cost of housing.

    Hopefully some of those things will be attractive to some people. I don't think there is anything wrong with being somewhat of a bedroom community.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Manufacturers make locational decisions based on their total factor costs. For a new plant, the biggest issues are frequently cost (heavily linked to availability) of land and cost (heavily linked to availability) of labor. Either can be determinative. If your ED folks are targeting a particular employer (meaning they have somebody identified, the location is suitable, supply chains exist in the area, etc) for this site and you can (by virtue of the existing building) afford them substantially reduced land costs, then you're much of the way there.

    Then you can way this alternative against the housing development, but first you need to know that the industrial option is actually viable and available to you.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    I should be more clear. We are not talking about building a subdivision. We have available lots and houses in the city right now. We will have more lots in the coming years in established neighborhoods as we are taking down 2-3 structurally poor houses per year. Our new comp plan is going to focus on infill in the coming 20 years. I am not a proponent of new subdivisions on the edge of town while you have available lots in town on already built streets with already built water and sewer infrastructure.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I do believe you are on the right track with trying to maintain or grow your population base. This might be a challenge, though, and particularly to try to attract higher skilled and higher earning households. Infill development may also prove to be more challenging than a new subdivision.
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian Doberman's avatar
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    I believe you have to have the employment opportunities first. In a small town I don't believe people are going to have the discretion to live somewhere without gainful employment. I think the key to small town survival is balancing the interests of those who want to maintain their Mayberry feel who are going to be more the prominent people in your community that have lived there forever versus those who treat the town as an exurb or bedroom town (depending on your proximity to a large metro) and those who have moved to be on the lake, retire, or have mini farms etc.

    Are you a planner strictly for said town or the county as a whole? Do you have the zoning or lack of zoning to allow for residential upsurge should the industrial building become filled? If there is not room or you lack the jurisdictional authority, is there room in the surrounding unincorporated areas or another nearby town for residential development? Does your town have or still have the infrastructure in place to accommodate the increase demands if the building becomes filled or is everything still in place from back when the building was operating?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Doberman's avatar
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    Also, I would think that the potential purchaser of the industrial facility would look at the town or surrounding area to see if land use could support the work force they need.

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    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Well, we got the building filled. A natural beauty products manufacturer from a nearby community bought it. The first wave of jobs were not terribly big, but they have future expansion plans there. Best of all, they are local.

    Focusing on infill is indeed difficult, but I believe its still the right thing to do. During our comp plan meeting the other night, we identified no future residential growth areas. The plan for the next 20 years will focus strictly on infill. The question is; How do you go about it? Can you lure a developer by saying that you have 20 lots you want developed, but they are scattered about town? We are moving away from the old model for sure.

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    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    For the city I live in (I happen to work on the county end) they are so pro infill that any development is rejected. I should point out that the growth rate is 1% right now and the proposed development is not sprawl, just the next small subdivision that is ready to be built. The problem here, there are no developers that interested in infill. The occasional project in or around downtown, but not a concentrated effort to infill. Part of this I blame on not have aggregated lots to develop on. We have to recognize that we aren't going to get a couple acres of raw land or houses that can be demolished so something new comes in. At least not often. I keeping thinking if this city really wants to go after infill housing (they're on a housing kick), they would start buying all the empty lots they could and then incentive the crap out of them for one builder to come in and create a product spread around the city.

    Just ranting about my town now, don't forsake growth and think it will create infill. That's like choking yourself and hoping you can still eat. You just have to make infill more attractive than growth and here the builders have told you they can only break even so it's not worth it to them.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

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    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Was thinking of $1 per lot to a developer for building on them, and then letting the eventual home owner get the benefit of our tax abatement program. We have greenfield lots already platted at the edge of town, those are available too, but they have a per lot cost. I am just trying to think of ways to get it moving. We are doing a project with a house to see if someone will sign on to fix it up if we sell it for $1. Its better than paying $10,000 to tear it down, etc.

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    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    You really need some kind of housing non profit with a sweat equity program. It gets the home built and a lot of times they restrict the home value from going up so the next owner can get it at an affordable rate too.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    How can you restrict the value of the house?

    BTW...I have lived in a small town for a while now and I can say hands down that the quality of life overall is better. Now, I am a middle aged man without a lot of extracurricular needs. However, I bike, run and workout here. I work 3 blocks from my house. I can get most of the stuff I need on a daily basis. I go to the bigger city maybe once-twice a week because my kids live there, and I can time shopping needs there around that. The cost of housing is a lot lower. I am not sure if I had to commute every day how I would feel, but I like it overall.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    I don't remember the details, it was something that was presented as part of my master's program years ago. Here is the website to the nonprofit running this thing. It was a land trust of some kind. They were nice people from what I remember so I'm sure they would be happy to fill in some details of how it works beyond they keep ownership of the land. Somehow the owner got some equity out of the deal and they got to sell the home as "affordable".

    http://www.newtowncdc.org/programs/c...ty-land-trust/
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Part of it will be driven by what growth you can afford given the need for supportive services and infrastructures. Many a town has favored employed growth over residential, if whatever state formulae are in use would require, say, a new school, once a certain threshhold is reached in terms of residential population growth. .. had an (evil) mayor tell me once, I want you to tell me what kind of residential development I can do with while adding no (as in zero) school-age children, and, by the way, you can't do add restricted housing of any type. So, in other words, he wanted us to come up with child-hostile design and planning features to make the new development as unwelcoming as possible for kids, and wanted a guarantee that there wouldn't be any at all.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I am starting to wonder if Jobs and Residents are progressing to become more and more disassociated within a given municipality and that if you want one or the other, you should directly focus on getting what you want. At one point in history, people didn't commute. Today people are picking quality of life issues as a major focus of where they choose to live, and then figure out the job thing when they get there, even if they do have a to commute. I don't work in the same City as I live. My wife works in a different county than we live in.

    The town that I work for is having a unique issue in that we have very consistent residential growth, but very little commercial or industrial growth. People want to live here, but the jobs are 10 to 30 miles away because of regional industrial or technical parks, banking and economic centers, major institutional uses including universities and hospitals, and even manufacturing centers are located in nearby communities that are easily accessible.

    So if I were in your shoes, I would focus on infrastructure, access, and amenities for commercial operations and separate quality of life, regional transportation, and schools for the residential needs.
    If you're not growing, you're dying. - Lou Holtz

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    You really need some kind of housing non profit with a sweat equity program. It gets the home built and a lot of times they restrict the home value from going up so the next owner can get it at an affordable rate too.
    ..or a school with a building trades program (or a collaborative effort of both).

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hawkeye66 View post
    How can you restrict the value of the house?

    ....
    Deed restrictions, land trusts, and development agreements with developers are all methods I have seen.

    If the city owns many of the infill lots they can package them together so not just the most desirable lots go. This worked in DC about 15 years ago to help revive so very distressed neighborhoods while others were rapidly gentrifying.
    "You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it,..." -Bane

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