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Sturgis Business Development Team
by Michael Hughes and Todd Campbell
“…often those with little or no experience in purchasing property, developing sites, or starting a business, view the regulations, rules and processes of government as complex, rigid, confusing or unnecessary.”
Local government's role is to serve the public interest, which includes upholding and enforcing the laws that govern construction and land use. Zoning and building regulations, as well as infrastructure standards, are necessary for a safe, well-planned community. Without these regulations, public safety and property values would undoubtedly be adversely affected.
The reality is that often those with little or no experience in purchasing property, developing sites, or starting a business view the regulations, rules and processes of government as complex, rigid, confusing or unnecessary. It is understood that those with experience working with local government have little difficulty complying with zoning and building regulations, however, the city of Sturgis recognizes that the development of new business startups requires a different, more personal approach.
What Is the Business Development Team?
The Business Development Team (BDT) consists of the assistant city manager, zoning/building administrator, DDA director (if applicable), city engineer, economic development director and chamber of commerce executive director. Other team members may be added based on the particular needs of the prospect. The assistant city manager serves as the team leader and the direct point of contact for the BDT. The purpose of this role is to provide guidance specific to the project's unique needs and circumstances. Due to the ever-changing complexity and myriad of grant programs and tax incentives, a project will be customized for each business prospect.
Proactive Prospect Contact
City staff, especially members of the BDT, actively contact prospective projects that might find the BDT tool useful. Many times, prospects purchase property without conducting their due diligence as it relates to zoning, building construction, and infrastructure needs. By proactively seeking out prospects during the planning stage, the city hopes to provide education on issues related to building, planning, zoning, engineering, etc., before property purchase occurs.
Although seemingly subtle, contact of prospects during their planning stage is critical in averting conflict that places the city in the position of "undoing" or resolving noncompliance with zoning or building regulations. Marketing of the BDT is necessary so that the community is aware of the tool. For the BDT to be successful, the city needs cooperation from those who routinely deal with these types of issues such as realtors and financial institutions.
By bringing key staff members together, referrals within the organization are minimized, and a mutual understanding by the city staff of the project can be gained. The BDT will identify various issues, concerns, opportunities or challenges that should be considered by the prospect. The BDT will also assist in identifying any state or local incentives that might facilitate the project. The BDT recognizes that local government regulations may not be the only barrier to execution of a project. An entrepreneur also may have needs relating to business plan development, accounting or legal services, project financing, and so on. The chamber of commerce executive director, by virtue of his/her involvement in the BDT, will be able to make appropriate referrals for services based on interaction with the prospect.
Project Resource Guide
After the BDT project review, city staff prepares a Project Resource Guide (PRG), which outlines project specific requirements that address zoning, building, infrastructure and other pertinent issues. The goal is to develop a document that provides guidance on city processes and procedures to make it easier for the prospect to navigate. The PRG will also summarize the various incentives that may be available for a given project, along with detailed information on any particular requirements. The BDT leader will be responsible for coordinating information for the PRG. Reference documents such as state statutes, building codes or local ordinances will also be included as an Appendix to the PRG to establish credibility of information included in the document. Each PRG is considered public information according to the Freedom of Information Act and will be provided to the public upon request.
As a single point of contact, the BDT leader will assist in coordinating any zoning, building, infrastructure or economic development related issues. The BDT leader will also provide clarification of questions or concerns by the prospect including appropriate documentation of laws, regulations or policies. The BDT leader's role is to minimize referrals and eliminate unnecessary contacts with multiple departments that often frustrate prospects.
Michael Hughes is the city manager of Sturgis. You may reach him at 269-659-7223 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Todd Campbell is the city manager for Saline, and former city manager of Sturgis. You may reach him at 734-429-4907 x2212 or email@example.com.