Mayor Unveils Economic Development Initiatives

Thursday, September 28, 2006 - 9:22am

Madison – Mayor Dave Cieslewicz was joined today by leading Madison business and progressive leaders to outline a new package of economic development initiatives. The initiatives are designed to help what Moody’s bond rating agency recently called “one of the nation’s strongest economies” continue to grow and create jobs.

“Madison is very fortunate to have a thriving, vibrant economy,” said Cieslewicz. “Our challenge is to avoid becoming complacent, and to make sure that we are prepared for the challenges of the future. Madison is changing, and the economy is changing. If we want to continue our past success, we need to adapt to those changes, and make sure that we are not leaving any Madisonian behind.”

The mayor’s plan includes the following components:

o Rewriting the City’s zoning code for the 21st century
o Supporting regional economic growth with an $18,000 contribution to the Collaboration Council
o Streamlining the development process by creating a “one stop shop” for developers
o Acquiring enterprise permitting software to modernize the City’s permitting processes
o Boosting funding for childcare programs by 10% to support employment for working families
o Writing a new economic development plan that helps Madison compete in the changing global economy
o Creating a new program to help small business employers and employees take part in Metro free ride programs
o Promoting tourism and travel to Madison with increased support for the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB)
o Developing a “buy local” policy for city government, to support the regional economy
o Elevating the role of economic development in City government by creating a cabinet-level economic development director and reorganizing the Department of Planning and Development

“The mayor’s proposals are a serious response to many of the issues identified in the report of the Economic Development Commission (EDC) on Madison’s business climate,” said Mark Bugher, Chair of the EDC and Director of University Research Park. “Taken as a whole, these proposals will put Madison on track to continue growing our economy and creating jobs.”

“The mayor’s proposal outlines a high-road economic development strategy that will unite business and progressives,” said Common Council President Austin King. “I applaud his smart, long-term investments in win-win policies like the buy local initiative and the small business bus pass program. Perhaps most important is a renewed commitment to childcare funding, which is crucial to the survival of low-income families, as well as to employers facing a labor shortage here in our prosperous economy.”

Cieslewicz concluded, “These initiatives build off my Healthy City economic development blue print. They emphasize its themes that our economic development strategy needs be innovative, regional and inclusive and it needs to build on our high quality of life.”

Most of these initiatives will be included in the mayor’s 2007 executive operating budget, which will be released next week, and are subject to approval by the Common Council. Final action is expected in mid-November. Others will be acted on separately.

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Building a Healthy City: The Mayor’s Economic Development Initiative

Since taking office in 2003, I have made economic development a key priority. While the City of Madison has one of the strongest economies in the nation, we will not remain that way if we don’t anticipate changes, and take advantage of them.

To that end, I have reinvigorated the Economic Development Commission (EDC); organized the Healthy City economic development conference; organized the city’s first-ever Small Business Conference; and much more. This year, I am continuing those efforts with a series of initiatives designed to keeping Madison’s economy strong and create good-paying jobs for all of its families.

Streamlining the Development Process

I am proposing creation of both a virtual, and an actual, “One Stop Shop.” On the virtual side, I am proposing to purchase enterprise permitting software which will significantly streamline the flow of information between the public and city government, and within city government itself. This builds on the City’s ongoing commitment to increase convenient online access to information through services such as Legistar.

In addition, I am proposing to create a physical “One Stop Shop” in 2007. This will be a single location where members of the public such as developers can simultaneously meet with City staff from various agencies. It will also enable better communication among staff, helping to ensure that members of the public receive reliable, consistent information from City government and make the development process more predictable for both neighborhoods and developers.

Creating a Zoning Code for the 21st Century

My budget includes $300,000 to rewrite the City’s aging zoning code over the next two years. The code includes countless cumbersome, outdated provisions that have accumulated over the years, making it confusing to developers and City staff alike. This is a continuation of the process that started with the adoption of the City’s new comprehensive plan, and will reflect development principles including infill and New Urbanism. A modern zoning code will eliminate obsolete zoning provisions and create new ones that reflect Madison’s growing economy. This process will streamline development by reducing the need for zoning variance requests.

Thinking Regionally through Collaboration

I am strongly committed to regional collaboration and cooperation. As Madison competes in an increasingly global economy, regional cooperation is the key to continued economic growth. To that end, my budget includes an $18,000 investment in the Collaboration Council’s Regional Economic Development Entity (REDE), a public-private partnership dedicated to creating jobs and building our regional economy. This contribution fully funds the Collaboration Council’s request.

Boosting Childcare to Support Employment

My budget includes a 10% increase in funding for childcare programs. Over my four budgets, I will have added $93,000 to this program. This investment will help more low-income families join the workforce. It also helps address one of my Madison Measures benchmarks, to close the participation gap in accredited childcare programs that exists between low-income and other children.

Improving Transit to Connect Employers and Employees

A strong public transportation infrastructure is a vital part of a healthy economy. My economic development initiative calls for a new program to enable small business employees to participate in Metro free ride programs, as employees of large businesses are currently able to do. The program is being developed in consultation with the Madison Environmental Group (MEG), the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, Progressive Dane and Downtown Madison Inc. (DMI).

I am also creating a special committee to evaluate the long-term future of Metro Transit, with a particular focus on expanding Metro’s role in workforce transportation. The committee features a diverse membership, with representatives from business, transit advocacy and other areas.

Buying Local to Strengthen the Regional Economy

I support development of a “buy local” policy. This policy, supported by organizations as diverse as Progressive Dane and the Commonsense Coalition, would create a local purchasing preference for city government, directing the use of local taxpayer resources to support local businesses wherever possible. The City Comptroller’s office is currently developing a report on this proposal, with specific ordinance language to follow.

Charting a Strategy for Future Economic Development

Madison’s economic development strategy has not been updated since 1984. Our economy is changing rapidly, which calls for a greater focus on strategies such as regionalism and the leveraging of public sector resources (such as UW-Madison) to support private sector job creation. My budget includes $50,000 to create an economic development plan for the 21st century based on my Healthy City economic development model.

Promoting Madison

Working with the Innkeepers Association and the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB), my budget includes a substantial new investment in efforts to promote the community to potential visitors. Funded by a 1% increase in the room tax supported by the industry, the share of room tax revenues dedicated to the GMCVB will be raised to the industry-standard 20% of overall room tax revenues. In 2007, this will result in an increase of over $500,000 for the GMCVB’s efforts to market Madison to visitors and conventions.

Elevating Economic Development in City Government

My budget includes funding to restructure the city’s key economic development agency, the Department of Planning and Development. This will include the elevation of a new Director of Economic Development to sit on the mayor’s Management Team and report directly to me, the combination of key economic development functions under the economic development director, and additional investment in the Office of Business Resources.

  • George Twigg, (608) 266-4611