What’s an Economic Development Toolbox?

EconDvlpmntToolbox.jpgThere’s been much discussion about our “Economic Development Toolbox” in Northfield over the past few months. Some of the conversations have been tied to trying to develop a business park on the land to be annexed from Greenvale Township, some of the references have been related to strengthening our existing businesses, and some of the discussions have focused on making Northfield more “business-friendly” in general.

Personally, I’d say, “all of the above”. In my mind, an economic development toolbox is a community’s package of programs that support existing, expanding, or recruiting businesses.

However, it’s not just the programs. During the second and third “summits” on in-fill and redevelopment that the NDDC held, with the support of the EDA, local developers, representing the private sector, noted that it’s not merely providing programs that facilitate economic development, it also involves removing obstacles. Therefore, enhancing your economic development toolbox would include both adding needed programs and removing unnecessary obstacles.

Adding programs and removing obstacles was clearly on the minds of many of the people attending our recent series of summits. Twenty-six of the one hundred ideas generated to promote in-fill development and redevelopment projects were related to this “strategy” of toolbox review and enhancement.

I did a bit of research on this subject last year. I participated in a webinar produced by the National Trust’s Main Street Program called “Business Recruitment and Retention: Two Sides of the Same Coin” and attended a conference organized by the Local Initiative Support Corporation that included a session titled “Neighborhood Change and Retail Recruitment Strategies”. Both experiences offered a list of potential tools for economic development.

The Retention Initiatives included Relocation Assistance, Debt-Restructuring, Short-Term Below Market Loans (for inventory or working capital), and Expansion (of goods and services) Assistance. The Recruitment Initiatives included Property Tax Rebates, Revolving Loan Funds, Providing Parking, and Land Assembly. The combination of the two lists represented almost two dozen initiatives to promote economic development in your community.

The Main Street folks called these initiatives “two sides of the same coin” and the instructor from LISC said “you get more economic leverage if your programs can support both retention and recruitment”. Based on others’ experiences, supporting both retention and recruitment would appear to be the surest path to economic vitality.

5 thoughts on “What’s an Economic Development Toolbox?

  1. This tool box and all the items you mentioned, were brought to the City and proposals made back in 2007.

  2. Apropos economic development and the proposed downtown master plan, I suggest that the committee pay particular attention to the east bank of the river between the Nutting Block and the barber’s shop (behind the buildings on the west side of Division Street) and consider the potential of this land and imagine it connected to Bridge Square, blocked off to through traffic, no car parking, landscaped, outdoor dining (& breakfasting, and lunching), decks, patios, pergolas, music, dancing….Economic Development at its finest.

    I would like to meet with the NDDC, EDA, building owners and all other interested parties on site in the near future to discuss this.
    Perhaps this can lead to a NDDC intiative – a design charette for this woefully underdeveloped and potentially fantastic part of our downtown.

  3. Norman –

    NDDC Board President Keith Covey has established a new standing board committee, “Design and Planning”, that includes both major property owners and design professionals. Let’s talk more next time we meet over a pint.

    – Ross

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