City adopts ‘cohesive policy’ for economic development

In News by Reporter News

Diversifying Friendswood’s tax base and providing incentive funding for new businesses are among goal laid out in the city’s recently adopted economic development strategy.

City Council on Jan. 5 adopted the new policy that was developed during a December retreat with the Community and Economic Development Committee, or CEDC.

“Under our mayor’s leadership, we’ve had a series of retreats with various committees, and the one of the most productive was with CEDC,” Councilman Pat McGinnis said. “This is part of the fruit of that close working relationship with them. In the theme that 2015 is the year to celebrate businesses, I’m glad we’ve come up with this resolution.”

Diversification of the city’s tax base – as well as preserving land along FM 528 for commercial development – has been a stated goal of CEDC, which has taken a stance against “downgrading” zoning along the corridor.

In the new policy strategy is a requirement for a fiscal impact analysis on downsizing property, and a formal process for CEDC to have input to Planning and Zoning and City Council on all commercial zoning requests.

Among the goals listed are to maintain an 80-20 ratio of residential to commercial tax revenue.

The policy incorporates feedback from a 2013 citizen survey, in which the most common stated issue was diversifying the tax base, and the fifth most common was “need more businesses and restaurants.”

Areas of focus listed in the Economic Development Strategy include FM 528 as well as the downtown district, which has seen little change in decades. Initiatives mentioned for revitalization are burying overhead utility lines, adding pedestrian amenities and using city-owned land to attract an anchor to downtown, such as a recreational amenity. Funding, the policy suggests, may come from a tax increment reinvestment zone, a dedicated revenue stream for economic development possibly through sales tax, reallocating current sales tax from downtown merchants and continued use of a 380 Grant Program.

A third area of focus is the Friendswood “panhandle,” the area in the FM 2351 and Beamer road area. That area contains tracts in need of infrastructure.

“The CEDC and the people who worked on this will be taking the policy and bringing to us various details, tactics, measurements and metrics as the policy calls for,” Councilman Steve Rockey said. “It’ll be an exciting time to get all that.”

Strategic steps for economic development:

– Diversify the tax base through business attraction.
– Support development of infrastructure to ensure sites are available for target business development.
– Market the city as a place to develop and expand businesses.
– Incentives, funding and resources: Provide funding and support for economic development.
– Strengthen partnerships.
– Economic development performance management.

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