The Role of Local Elected Officials in Economic Development: 10 Things You Should Know is part of the Center for Research and Innovation’s ongoing work to provide city leaders with the skills to become informed, strategic decision-makers in economic development. The “ten things” were derived from analysis of successful city programs and interviews with economic development professionals, elected leaders, academics and business organizations.
Your regulatory environment directly impacts the ease of doing business in your city. For business leaders, time is money; they want to know that the regulatory process provides for timely, reliable and transparent resolution of key issues. If your city's regulatory policies are riddled with delays, confusing and redundant steps, and multiple approval processes, a prospective business may very well choose to locate or expand in another community.
Local officials can improve the regulatory environment for businesses by ensuring that the development review process and other policies are streamlined and transparent. The key to success is ensuring consistency and clarity about expectations, timelines, regulations, and costs. This will alleviate much of the uncertainty involved in economic development projects by allowing businesses to accurately anticipate the timing of the process and to build their plans accordingly. In addition, a better regulatory environment can promote information-sharing and better communication with local businesses so you can work together to identify potential challenges or problems.
As a local elected official, your first step is to ensure that you have an understanding of the current regulatory system and where there may be problems. This will require you to gather input from the business community about their frustrations and experiences. Working with your local chamber of commerce or other local business organizations may be helpful in this process. To gain additional perspective, you may want to consider going through the process yourself, as if you were a developer or a new business. This will allow you to have firsthand knowledge of the time, costs, hassles, and clarity of the process.
When examining your regulatory process, be mindful not to throw the good out with the bad. Not all development is good development, and it is important that your regulatory processes reflect your long-term economic development vision so you can safeguard against detrimental projects. The key for your city is to find a balance and remove unnecessary delays and hurdles, while still preserving the integrity of the community's economic development vision and goals.