The Strategy, Part 3
July 14, 2010 1:15 PM
Madison should be known as a town that knows what to do with a good idea.
In my last two blogs, I discussed the need for another round of federal stimulus spending and for another jolt of capital budget spending in Madison while we exercise restraint on our annual operating budget. Today, I'd like to write about what the Great Recession means for the way our city works with those who want to make investments in our community.
It's no secret that Madison has a reputation as a hard place to do business. I'm not sure that that reputation is entirely justified. After all, if Madison is such a bad place to do business then why is it that we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation? If Madison is so anti-business, why is it that we have held our property values better than just about any city in the nation?
Having said that, there's no doubt that we can do better. No city wants to have the reputation for being unwelcome to investment, jobs and vitality.
So what can we do to improve our business climate without sacrificing what's good about our process and protects us from economic exploitation?
Civic leaders in business, labor, neighborhoods and from other sectors are now offering their ideas on how we might improve our processes. I've asked our city's Economic Development Commission to vet those ideas over the summer and offer up specific changes to the City Council and me by the fall. I'll probably support some proposals, oppose others and perhaps offer some of my own ideas.
For now, though, here are the principles I'd like to see these specific ideas coalesce around.
First, we should strive for a reputation as a city with processes that are business-like, predictable and expedient.
Second, we should maintain our high development standards. We shouldn't allow just anything to be built anywhere.
Third, we need some balance on tax incremental financing, our main economic development tool. We shouldn't treat TIF like an automatic teller machine, but we should treat TIF applicants as potential partners in wise private-public investments that will benefit our whole community in the long-run. TIF applicants are neither our customers who should expect to get anything they ask for nor our enemies who are trying to rip us off. They are potential business partners, nothing more or less.
I've said for my entire time in office that Madison can be both progressive and pro-business. I believe that now more than ever. Let's use the Great Recession as a time to reevaluate how we do business with business and come out of it with both a better business climate and continued high standards to make sure that these investments improve our community as a whole.