While some municipalities welcome new or expanding companies with open arms, others may seem resistant to development. Here are 10 of the signs to look for to determine if a community is business-friendly.
1) The community has a pro-business attitude - starting at the top. If top officials in local government like councilors and selectors support new businesses, chances are good that others within the community will be supportive as well.
2) The community lets it be known that it is "open for businesses" by having someone - usually an economic development director - in place to act as a liaison between businesses and community officials to streamline the development process.
3) The community is proactive about offering tax increment financing packages (TIFs) or other tax breaks to attract businesses. As tax breaks are becoming a common tactic to lure companies, cities and states that do not make an effort to offer them up front run the risk of seeming standoffish to new business.
4) The community has a skilled work force - or if not, the community will willingly form partnerships with businesses and local community colleges in training programs to meet a company's specific needs.
5) The community has sound infrastructure in place. If it is not completely up to par, companies should not hesitate to ask city officials how willing they are to make upgrades happen sooner rather than later. Often the promise of new jobs may be just the thing to make it a top priority.
6) The community has municipal services - such as water, sewer, electrical ,and high-speed Internet - that are up to par and affordable, as well as fire and police departments that are reliable and possess state-of-the-art equipment. Business-friendly municipalities will be quick to impress upon prospects that they have the capability to handle such things as fires, road maintenance, etc., and are willing to make the necessary investments to keep it that way.
7) The community has a good school system and recreational opportunities, and makes an effort to invest in their local arts organizations. Business-friendly communities realize that in order for a company to be successful, it needs to find a location where current and future workers will want to work, live, and raise their families.
8) The community has officials who are aware of the importance of good public relations and are willing to go out of their way to spread the good word on behalf of new businesses coming to town.
9) The community operates with a realization that time is money for business owners, and its officials are willing to cut through red tape by assisting on things like the pre-permitting of development sites.
10) The community has resources and people to do the legwork and help companies find the best land or building available, or to work with them to ensure a new facility can be built to meet their needs.
When scouting sites for a new company or an expansion, be sure to ask local officials about these 10 items during your investigation. If officials fail to respond or do not have this information readily available, you may want to consider looking elsewhere.
Norman Dean has served as Town Manager of Madison, Maine, since 2000 and Madison Business Gateway Committee Chair since 2003; Madison Business Gateway is a business park located within the community. Mr. Dean can be reached at (207) 696-3971.