For me, the more important part of the article is the last paragraph, stated below.
2) Reduce Risk in public costs of doing business
3) Continue stability in quality of life amenitiesIn following the spirit of the article, communities must have a clear, developed and funded plan for infrastructure development and upgrading. Too many communities do not have the financial policies and practices in place developing and maintaining capital funding and reserve funding to provide for the infrastructure needed to develop green field, redevelop brown fields or to repair/replace inadequate main lines. Reducing risk in this area is to have in place (1) the financial resources; (2) the preventive maintenance, inspection and repair of existing main lines (including I&I); (3) training programs in place for line and system workers.
Companies are looking for stability or at least predictability in the cost of local government. Many local governments are transparent in their operations, except when it comes to talking about costs. I have talked with too many local economic development officers who do not want to share the costs imposed by the local government, instead, choosing to provide this information only when asked or pushed to provide the data. Some communities think that listing these costs is adequate enough. It is no longer adequate. Using tools like the EDDS BARC® system provides all of these costs in a calculator format where a business can see what all of the local government costs are up front.
Another source of providing stability in costs is a thorough examination of municipal services. This is not just the issue of contracting; it is bigger than that. Communities need to work together to see just what services can be combined and provided on a regional level, eliminating duplicative costs of equipment and personnel.
In these times, maintaing a quality of life while being faced with a double whammy of reduced federal and state funding, is a huge challenge. Localities have to be more creative: again the idea of regional services, contracting out, inviting community volunteers are solutions that need to be explored.
Equally important in the cost equation is the role of organized labor. Municipal workforces are part of the solution and they need to be brought into the process — not just in explaining budget difficulties, but by bringing them into the decision process regarding wages and benefits, creating and maintaining best practices in the workplace. Employee empowerment is key in these times; and yes, it is a scary place to go, but can be overcome with trust and transparency. Attacking local government employees may make for good press, but it is lousy public policy. The road workers, police officers, firefighters, clerks and inspectors are the foundation of the services and can make all members of the community look good. It’s time for authentic engagement with local employees.
The key here from the three points mentioned in the article can reduce uncertainty for local economic development decisions. Local governments are not collections of services and departments, but rather an organic inter-related and interdependent system. Economic development is everyone’s job.