Development Leaders Determined to Prove County is not Anti-Business
Consultant Lashes County Commission, Business Leaders in Report
October 22, 2004
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By: Dave Rogers
County Commissioners engage in heated discussion about failure to reach agreement on Monitor tax sharing.
"I guess we're going to have to prove that Bay County is not anti-business by settling this."
That comment between government and business leaders was overheard following a momentus meeting of the Bay County Commission last Thursday.
The issue that needs settling is negotiations over sharing of property taxes on businesses so expansion of the Valley Center Technology Park in Monitor Township can go forward.
At the County Commission meeting, local business leaders and economic developers and county officials received heavy criticism from a consultant for failure to work together.
Jay Garner of Competitive Strategies Group, a firm being paid about $70,000 to tell the county how to grow, slammed leaders for a laundry list of shortcomings, including:
Ineffective business solicitation efforts;
Distrust between organized labor, the business community and the public sector;
Lack of adequate sites and buildings for development;
Below average business climate;
Lack of consistency in the development process;
Political decision making; and
Having the 15th highest effective tax rate in Michigan.
Other negative factors on the list included the need for consolidated services, a limited supply of executive housing, poor perception of schools; union contractors for public projects, need for public beach access, and limited areas of high-speed Internet access.
Mr. Garner also cited inconsistent incentives, the fact the county is not well known by site location consultants, need for basic infrastructure improvements, dated, depressed look in thecommunity outside the business district and riverfront area, need for a long-term vision or strategic plan, need for regional economic devevelopment and branding.
Mr. Garner listed 11 assets of the community and delivered a list of 24 recommendations focusing on teamwork, education, product marketing and technology enhancement to be led by Bay Future, the new public-private economic development agency.
Assets cited by Mr. Garner were:
1. Employee work ethicand skills;
2. Exceptional downtown and waterfront areas;
3. Private investment in downtown residential development;
4. Storefronts downtown are 95 percent occupied;
5. Charming and friendly small gtown atmosphere;
6. Low cost of living;
7. Low crime rate;
8. High marks for Saginaw Valley State University and Delta College;
9. Convenient access to air passenger services;
10. Quality transportation infrastructure;
11. Proximity to natural resources.
Costs of the $70,000 study were paid by the county and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).
Commissioner Scott Holman had urged attempts to reach harmony on the Monitor issue and stressed the need for intergovernmental cooperation, adding: "The only three gems we have are the three DDAs (downtown development authorities)."
Commissioner Brian Elder pushed for negotiations and noted the county's need for funds to continue home health care, senior citizen services, library functions and other general fund areas. He noted that Monitor DDA officials had promised to negotiate, apoint agreed to by Bill Bartlett, Monitor DDA chairman.
A resolution drawn by a Detroit attorney who specializes in DDA issues was adopted on a 7-1 vote, with Mr. Holman dissenting. The resolution outlines county actions to resolve the Monitor issue, including possible legal action.
Cliff Van Dyke, president of the Bay County Growth Alliance, manager of the Valley Technology Park for the Monitor DDA, said state law allows use of tax increment funds for park development. He was confident the matter would be settled and park expansion approved.
County Executive Tom Hickner said discussions with the Monitor Township DDA officials have been "fruitful" buthad not reached consensus as yet. He said talks have been aimed at developing an agreement for tax sharing so the expansion can proceed. "They are sensitive to the need for economic growth and the financial condition of the county as well," said Hickner."We have to work something out and we want to have it done by the conclusion of the current board in late November."###
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at email@example.com)
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