Role of City Government
Government's job is to provide a community that attracts businesses. I believe that business is the main driving factor behind creating jobs and economic growth. There should be a strong effort to create a favorable environment for business owners and entrepreneurs to do business in Vancouver as well as contacting potential businesses and pointing out the features of the community including parks, education, leisure time activities, and quality of life in general.
We're competing for jobs with other cities, states, and countries. With more than 8% unemployment attracting employers should be the top priority for everyone in our area, including Council members.
My priority is building and fostering a business environment, which creates new jobs without adding to the tax burden, or spending money we don't have. Businesses consider a range of factors when deciding where to locate, including quality of life issues, roads, and programs that rely on a certain level of public spending and regulation. The only way we can compete is to have a better tax and regulatory climate, but education and a quality work force are also key to that.
More than ever, economic development is as much about retaining businesses currently operating in the city as it is attracting new businesses to the city. If we are to be successful at retaining and recruiting business, we must provide educated workforce.
We can work with local, state and federal agencies to promote all available retraining opportunities. The Clark County Skills Center, Clark College and Washington State University can help us with the technological needs of local business to create higher paying jobs and a more diversified economy. I've studied these programs for several years.
Retention - Small Business
I believe that focusing on and supporting small business is the most effective way to create and maintain jobs and a diversification of business. In addition to providing employment, it reinforces the feeling of community.
I support the small businesses in and around my neighborhood. I ask how the business is doing, are they having any problems that are within the City's purview, and find out what is keeping a business from growing. I believe City Council members have an important role of keeping businesses here and helping them to grow.
I also feel I have a responsibility to encourage my family, neighbors, and fellow citizens to shop locally.
I believe that providing for public infrastructure is a fundamental obligation of government. Infrastructure, especially road construction, is vitally important for businesses.
It is becoming clear that we are not keeping up with major maintenance of our roads. We should not consider expanding roads or enhancing revenues without first assuring that the roads put in place for the public good are kept in serviceable condition without undue reliance on debt.
Recruitment - Permitting
I served on the City of Vancouver's Planning Commission for 5 years. I believe there are ways to streamline the regulatory process.
I believe that having straightforward and fair regulations in terms of zoning, construction, and permitting is paramount. This doesn't mean we compromise our standards or put our land, air or water at risk, but it does mean that we'll keep a focus on jobs.
Permitting and legal hurdles create a daunting obstacle for new businesses. At times, a new business may have an opportunity to convert property for a better use, but they cannot because regulations do not permit the conversion, or obtaining the permits is such a long and costly process that it makes the project not viable.
One potential strategy would be to allow an accelerated process and to reduce permitting and planning fees where a project meets a set of established criteria such as: (1) puts underutilized property (defined as being vacant for a certain amount of time) to a higher and better use; (2) the project would be completed in a certain amount of time; and (3) the project would create a certain number of new Vancouver jobs.
In addition, I believe there's an opportunity to discuss the phasing of impacts fees. Let's study the possibility of allowing a new business to make four or five yearly payments on the fees.
Finally, we must always make sure that new as well as existing regulations do, in fact, accomplish what we are after. Does code make sense and does it result in the desired outcome?
Require a "Yellow Pages" test for Economic Development.
The City of Vancouver has an Economic Development department. In addition, we have numerous non-profit and private groups in Vancouver and Clark County that provide a similar service. We need to have a conversation to see if there is a duplication of services and determine the value of that expense.
Vancouver's small businesses, along with our city's major employers must have the support they need to maintain the jobs they provide and create new jobs. I understand the importance of ensuring the city is quick to respond to the needs of small business by ensuring a quality educated workforce, providing efficient service, and maintaining reasonable fees to conduct and attract business to Vancouver.