During the campaign, I told you (and you agreed) that one of our top priorities in Simpsonville should be Economic Development.
Over the last couple of months, I spoke with local business owners, the Chamber of Commerce, the Appalachian Councils of Government, city staff, and council members who have also expressed interest in economic development. I also completed my Institute of Elected Officials course in Municipal Economic Development.
Last week, I sent a memo to Mayor and Council on this topic, and last night I spoke to it. Here is my statement*:
Successful municipal community and economic development begins with elected officials making an organizational commitment to community and economic development.
To that end, I move that the Committee of the Whole recommend Council direct City Administrator David Dyrhaug to develop a strategic action plan for ongoing community and economic development.
As my class confirmed, community and economic development is about creating a healthy, vibrant community where people want to live, work, play, and invest money. Its key components are leadership, strategic planning, and collaboration. Its goals are to:
- Stimulate the local economy;
- Create new business opportunities;
- Encourage expansion of existing business activities;
- Create jobs and, in turn, increase the tax base;
- Generate new revenue and invest it to improve quality of life and make the city an even more attractive location for new businesses.
Community and economic development does not happen in a vacuum; it requires an action plan.
The Municipal Association will be offering economic development grants up to $25,000 beginning this fall. Simpsonville is not currently in a position to even apply for such funds given we have no plan, no focused interest in economic development. We should, though. Or we’ll be missing out while other municipalities take advantage of such opportunities. Having a plan indicates we’re willing and ready if a project or opportunity comes available.
Such a plan should start by determining what kind of economic development is right for us—a market analysis and identification of our community’s assets. And it must be collaborative in nature. The City must work with state, counties, neighboring towns, residents, local business leaders, our local Chamber of Commerce, & leverage public-private partnerships. The new approach to economic development (which we are seeing successfully implemented throughout the state) is comprehensive and multi-layered. And, in the words of Miriam Hair, Executive Director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina, public officials have a HUGE responsibility in providing leadership to make that happen. It’s time to embrace that responsibility.
A vote in favor of this motion indicates that, as a Council, we agree that community and economic development must be a priority for the city.
Last night, Council voted to move this item to the July 12th business meeting. With a majority vote at that meeting, Mr. Dyrhaug will move forward with “getting the right people in the room” to work on creating an action plan for community and economic development in Simpsonville.
*Much of this statement comes directly from those 18 pages of notes I took during my class, a class that confirmed much of what I already believed to be true (read more here).