Small businesses and the local economy they support are the backbone of the American Dream – and our community. They are also the shortest pathway to economic equity out of an impoverished community. Local government should value this and do everything within our power to be the facilitator of their success, not a gatekeeper or barrier to its realization. Our economy is still recovering economically from the pandemic. We need to be sure that assistance funding makes it all the way to the streets and helps those most affected by the mandates placed on our communities, namely “mom & pops” on Main Street.
In addition, properly managed growth not only addresses our severe housing shortage, but also provides good paying jobs and an economic boost to our government coffers.
The process of entitlements and review should be transparent and consistent, with assistance offered to navigate the different steps and interfaces along the way. Finally, the “cost” of doing business with our local government should be easily calculated, commensurate with impacts and staff resources required and focused on efficiency.
Support local. Many economic development programs tout the significance of keeping our dollars local. Property taxes, sales taxes, hotel taxes, user fees and development costs all go to support the services our local government provides. Accordingly, this can be a self-fulfilling situation if we recognize that the better the job is done, the more money flows in to do the work and the higher quality of life is enjoyed. It is farming, not harvesting. Furthermore, when assistance is received from outside the agency as we saw during the pandemic, those monies should go to support the people and businesses supporting the local economy, not to add or grow pet projects.
Be stable and predictable. In business, the ability to plan and forecast is crucial. One of the worst aspects in the response to the pandemic was the stop/start nature of prevention measures. Fortunately, the importance of the supply chain is understood better than perhaps ever before. For a business owner this means so much more than a delay in receiving a package. It plays into the ability to meet current needs, to grow new business and manage cash flow. We need to be mindful that we maintain a regulatory environment with a very shallow wavelength, not spikes up and down. The economic environment, the process and the costs should have a shelf life that is easily communicated and resilient to upheaval.
Foster a customer service orientation. If we accept the importance of the dynamic outlined in the first consideration, it is easy to draw a straight line to how important it is to recognize who is really paying the bills. Government exists on borrowed funds, thus it should operate as a facilitator of interests, not the arbiter of liberties. One of my proposals would be to create an inter-departmental ombudsman to act as shepherd for those navigating a complex process. One day, the hope would be to have all the boats pointed in the same direction, but in the meantime it would be helpful to have a skilled harbormaster on your side.
Frequently review costs. Every fee charged should have an express and defensible nexus to the cost to provide the service or benefit therein. These costs should be reviewed for accuracy and trued up against actual expenses. Only in the case of impact fees that are being collected for a future expense is there a lag time between payment and result. Put another way, if we conduct a cost/benefit analysis from the end user’s perspective, are they getting their money’s worth?