I’ve said that Simpsonville needs to make economic development a top priority. Why? Because economic development increases revenue to the city. The Tribune Times recently reported that the city of Mauldin passed its FY16 budget without a tax increase for citizens. Further, the article points out that Mauldin hasn’t increased taxes since 2011 and has the lowest millage rate in the Upstate. When asked about how his city has avoided tax increases, Mauldin’s mayor explained, “On the income side, it’s our continued growth in residential, but primarily on the commercial side.”
Some people limit the definition of “economic development” and would relegate the responsibility for it to non-city entities like the Greenville Area Development Corporation (GDAC). Certainly, Simpsonville should benefit from the work of the GDAC whenever possible. The GDAC focuses on bringing target industries to our area, such as advanced materials companies, automotive, aviation/aerospace, etc. Obviously, if the GDAC could attract a major company like BMW to our city, I wouldn’t complain about the tax dollars it would generate.
However, to limit ourselves to only the kind of economic development they help provide would be a disservice to our city. The reason why is simple: in cities like Simpsonville, community development is economic development.
Don’t take my word for it. Take a look at Small Towns, Big Ideas: Case Studies in Small Town Community Economic Development by Will Lambe, Associate Director, Community & Economic Development Program, School of Government, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Lessons Learned section of the report explains that “seven themes emerged from stories in Small Towns, Big Ideas. These themes are offered as take-away lessons for other communities hoping to learn from small towns with big ideas.” Amongst those seven themes are the following:
- In small towns, community development is economic development.
- Further, communities that incorporate economic and broader, longer-term, community development goals stand to gain more than small towns that take a piecemeal approach.
- Successful community economic development strategies are guided by a broadly held local vision.
- Viable community economic development involves the use of a comprehensive package of strategies and tools, rather than a piecemeal approach.
This is why in my campaign launch speech, I said we should focus on both economic development and community & cultural programs and services. It’s why I said, “we need a comprehensive plan that takes all of that, ties it all in together, for the benefit of the city, for One Simpsonville, that contributes to the overall economic development of the entire city.”