At the 2012 NLC Congress of Cities conference in Boston, Danielle Casey, Assistant City Manager for the City of Maricopa, AZ presented on ways to make cities more business friendly. The room was packed to the brim and the panel discussion lively.
What were some of the key points that arose from the session?
- Transparency is critical and staff accountability should be expected.
- No city official is likely to brag about being unfriendly to businesses – everyone is doing the best they can. To really find out, Maricopa asks customers what their experiences have been, examines best practices, and implements them. Leadership is key to driving this strategy.
- To identify issues and opportunities for improvements, Maricopa conducted a Development Services Review (audit) under the direction of the City Manager.
- Online permitting and customer service is becoming expected; do not underestimate the ability of technology to improve customer service. See Maricopa’s online customer service survey here.
According to Casey, to be successful in economic development, communities should adopt a holistic approach in strategizing for infrastructure development, and business attraction, retention, and expansion.
Choosing the right staff members is also of utmost importance. Staff members should be eager to find ways they can make something happen rather than state why something isn’t possible. If it requires Council approval to change a process to achieve a result that is a council priority (for example, making it fast and easy to get a business license approved), it’s the staff’s obligation to bring solutions before the Council for consideration.
Since Maricopa was such a high growth community, economic development became the City Council’s top priority to best accommodate the rush of economic activity. Thus, the staff worked to deliver a comprehensive program that allowed them to “move the needle” in an environment where large company relocations are scarce. Council participation in events like trade shows and local business visits also proved highly beneficial.
For more information on Maricopa’s economic development efforts, be sure to visit the city’s economic development web page.