When it comes to attracting new businesses, predictability is one of the most attractive assets a city can have, Beachwood’s economic development consultants told city leaders Thursday night.
to develop a strategy to attract further economic development to the city.
Thursday the team — which includes Steve Schoeny of SZD Whiteboard, Mark Barbash, former economic development director of the City of Columbus, and Mark James from ED Solutions — gave Council an idea of the strategies they expect to recommend in their final report next month.
The team compared Beachwood to six other cities similar in size, income and education demographics, including Worthington, Ohio and Blue Ash, Ohio, and spoke with 50 community leaders in Beachwood.
Create a Predictable Incentives Policy
Beachwood has not written an incentives policy, instead opting to make offers to businesses on a case-by-case basis.
Cities often offer businesses tax breaks or other money-saving programs to entice businesses that would bring jobs and growth to move in.
A clearly defined incentive program is an important asset of the most successful cities that the company studied as part of the project, the team told Council.
“Site selection is all about certainty,” said Schoeny.
In fact, he added, when he’s helped companies choose locations for new development, he has sometimes recommended a more expensive location in favor of a clear incentive program.
“We do react to a project rather than have a program in place,” said Councilman Mark Wachter. “We need to be able to walk a business in the door and have a sense of what their plan will look like.”
Establish an Economic Development Program
The other facet of uncertainty in Beachwood has been its economic development program, Schoeny pointed out.
Since 2009, when the city decided to stop contracting the Chamber of Commerce for its economic development services, the city’s been in flux: first, a business incubator that closed, an economic development director position was created and then eliminated and now the city has three temporary contracts — with SZD, with a public relations firm and with Brad Sellers, who runs day-to-day operations, for developing a new program.
Schoeny said the team would recommend what kind of program the city should have in September, but did not elaborate on the details of the plan.
When Failure Is Not an Option
The presentation outlined the city’s strongest assets as a strong tax base, its strategic location, a responsive city administration, its quality and the caliber of companies already located here.
These assets, including Beachwood’s strong street maintenance program and reliable infrastructure, make the city a good place for companies that cannot shut down, said Schoeny, like international corporation Eaton, the Cleveland Clinic’s back-end operations and University Hospital’s Ahuja Medical Center.
He added that Beachwood should market to businesses for whom failure is not an option.
Final Presentation in September
The team will present final recommendations to Council during a public session in September. Watch Beachwood Patch for details when the meeting is scheduled.