Fraser board approves economic development contract
The Fraser Board of Trustees has authorized staff to enter into a contract for economic development consulting services with Ehler’s, Inc.
The board approved the authorization for a contract to complete a business and development cost analysis not to exceed $7500 at its Nov. 4 meeting.
Before the meeting, Ehler’s provided the town with a proposal for services that begins with the cost analysis in which Ehler’s and Fraser would examine the town’s fax and fee structure. That analysis would consider a sample of representative businesses and development types and explore how the town’s tax and fee structures affect them. The analysis would provide recommendations for reevaluating those structures and addressing any possible discrepancies in their effects on business and development costs.
Ehler’s would then help the town develop an economic development strategy and action plan to be implemented in two to three years.
Initially, Trustee Jane Mather said she was hesitant to endorse a deal with Ehler’s due to what she described as a perceived focus on providing incentives for developers and businesses in the initial proposal.
“My question is, I don’t think incentives is the right place to start when we’re looking at potential economic development activities,” Mather said.
Developer Clark Lipscomb previously proposed a number of economic incentives to the town that he said might be applied to all businesses and developers.
At that time, Mather said she didn’t believe in incentivizing development.
Town Manager Jeff Durbin said he didn’t see the proposal as a means toward identifying economic incentives for businesses and developers.
“I would think of this as bringing somebody to our team who can help facilitate a conversation about economic development, and that can carry a lot of different things,” Durbin said.
Bruce Kimmel, a senior municipal advisor and director with Ehler’s, said incentives were a secondary or tertiary concern in identifying economic development opportunities in Fraser.
“If you look at the proposal that we presented to the Town of Fraser, we really don’t even talk about how to use incentives,” Kimmel said. “It’s really about looking at what the town wants to accomplish, looking at areas of the town where you might want to accomplish those economic development goals.”
Kimmel later added that he felt the town should have guidelines and a framework to consider incentive requests but should consider them on a case-by-case basis.
Mather said she also felt that the proposal also focused more on recruiting new businesses rather than supporting existing businesses.
Kimmel said the scope of work provided was more of an example.
“We know that the resolution that the town board passed talked about new business development as well as business retention, and so certainly we would want to focus again all of our efforts and our research on whatever the objectives of the town are as it relates to economic development, so I don’t see it as being mutually exclusive,” Kimmel said.
Ehler’s proposal also suggests assembling an advisory group to give feedback and perspective to the town’s economic development pursuits.
The proposed make up of the group would include two trustees, one planning commission member, two community business representatives, one commercial developer or real estate broker, one residential developer or realtor and one city staff member, though the town could change that structure, Kimmel said.
“This is only a representative idea of who could be on this advisory group,” he said.
Trustee Andy Miller said the need for a business and development cost analysis was something the board had heard repeatedly.
Trustee Eileen Waldow, the lone dissenting vote on resolution, said she didn’t understand what was being agreed to.
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