In January EDDS sent email survey notification to city/village managers/administrators, safety directors and economic development directors in Ohio. The results are very interesting. The survey purpose was to determine (1) how effective these persons rated print and online media; (2) competitiveness, and (3) needed economic development tools and the potential use of smart phones.
PRINT MEDIA/WEBSITE EFFECTIVENESS
The first two questions asked respondents to rate the effectiveness of their agency’s print media and economic development websites. The responses are as follows:Print Media Websites Very 8.3% 8.3% Moderately 54.2% 54.2% Not Very 16.7% 37.5% Do not have 20.8% 0.0%
This is pretty interesting: respondents are not very confident in their print media and are less so in their websites. The response here may have a two other meanings: (1) Those that don’t have either do not have any print media at all and (2) possibly have moved to the web. In talking with managers and ED professionals in Ohio, the more likely meaning is the former. This is a little disturbing with the emphasis that has been placed on economic development over the past 20 years in local government. Reading that 37.5% do not view their websites as being effective, is disturbing and may be due to (1) the lack of recognition by elected officials of the usefulness and need for an economic development page; (2) the level of competitiveness for funds in local governments. It is difficult to dedicate money to a website when police officers and firefighters are getting laid off. It also illustrates in this writers mind, the lack of leadership in utilizing utility funds to assist in supporting economic development websites. The costs are not that high; the difficulty lies in having sites that are operated by local website purveyors who do not provide content management services to their clients — in other words, websites are installed, but staff members are not trained to update them. Again, this is not an expensive endeavor and needs to be considered when having a website built. Just like in any group or team, depth is important.
Of those who indicated that their website is “not very” effective, 53.8% indicate they they have monies budgeted for the website, while 46.2% do not.
Respondents were asked to rate their community’s competitiveness in their county, region and State. The responses were as follows:County Region State Extremely Competitive 33.3% 20.8% 12.5% Very Competitive 33.3% 37.5% 29.2% Mildly Competitive 29.2% 20.8% 29.2% Slightly Competitive 4.2% 16.7% 25.0% Not Competitive 0.0% 4.2% 4.2%
Again the responses indicate some interesting trends: the larger the area, the less the feeling of competitiveness. The only real difference is that almost one-third of the respondents feel that they are Mildly Competitive at the county and state level, and the level of Slight Competitiveness increases with the scale.
An open ended question asked: What tools, policies, programs, and/or services do you believe would make your community’s economic development program more competitive, within the county, region and/or state? The responses were varied and blunt:Additional funding to support economic development efforts. RLFs Eliminate township governments in urban and suburban areas and also allow for Sales Tax TIFs Small business programs. Access to capital at a low costs, such as a revolving loan fund. A national economic development policy. Having a CDC More creative financing mechanisms for key projects Better state programs for in-state retention and expansion Location (2) Modified CRA program Changed Enterprise Zone Gran/Loan programs Infrastructure Program More workforce development programs that focus on technology skills for the advance material and information technology sectors. The Ohio legislature needs to require large, urban townships to take on road,court, and other governmental responsibilities similar to cities so they will not have such a significant financial advantage over cities in competing for new economic growth. A full time economic development director Right-to-work law Repeal of prevailing wage Cheaper power. More resources for print media, staffing, and business outreach Larger Revolving Loan Fund – right now we have a maximum loan of $25,000, if we could raise that level to $50,000 or $100,000, we could fill larger gaps in a businesses need for financing when it come to purchasing a larger facility, equipment, or building new. Greater Job Training $$$’s – It would be wonderful to have real defined pot of money available for job training…great tool for business attraction, particularly from out of State. Greater County involvement/marketing of Lake County’s assets. Incremental tax abatement Incentives for sliding scale utility rates Local incentives not offered by other communities Dedicated ED staff (not shared with CD/Planning activities) (2) Inventory of exceptional City services Licking County is beginning a newly developed Economic Development Council with in the Licking County Chamber of Commerce and we’re hoping that this could be a great new step. The State leaving us alone. Better incentive (grant) programs. A smart app Staff that are recognized as experts. Developing more user friendly websites that provide a lot of detailed information on the community, available sites/buildings, taxes, utlities, etc.(3)
The responses provide a wide range of local interests and interfaces with state economic development programs. Interestingly, their was no mention of the new regional economic development agencies or the new JobsOhio Agency. Again, basing some inference from discussions with development staff around the state, there is still a wait and see attitude from localities regarding these new agencies and program directions.
It has been fascinating to see the number of smartphones that are in use and the number of applications that seem to go with them. Certainly there are uses in local government for smartphones and their applications. Survey takers were asked two questions: (1) If you could purchase or develop smartphone apps for your community, would you develop or purchase them for use by:Residents 8.3% Businesses 12.5% Employees 12.5% All of the above 70.8% Would not purchase or develop 16.7%
(2) If you could develop or purchase smartphone apps for your municipal employees (city, village, township), what departments/operations would you envision them being effectively used? The response percentages are of course above 1oo%, as the question was a multiple response question.Police 62.5% Fire 50.0% Community/Economic Development 62.5% Finance 29.2% Administration 66.7% Public Service 54.2% Utilities (water, sewer, muni electric) 62.5% City Council 37.5% None of the above 20.8%
These statistics indicate a possible trend in the use of new technologies in local government. However, the use and understandings of websites needs to advance to a greater degree. At the same time, being that cellphones are nearly ubiquitous in local government, the trend towards smartphones may move quicker as it can be folded into budget rather easily. There are a number of applications that can be created for local governments to increase the level of service and reduce response costs – and not just in police and fire. The applicability to and for local governments has a depth that has not even scratched the surface.