Getting Shovel-Ready: How Three Communities Promote Economic Growth and Development

December 2, 2022 – OpenGov

Econimic growth and development is a hot topic in the government space. According to the last Census, the population of ~80% of U.S. metro areas grew over the last decade. To keep pace with this growth, community development departments across the nation are planning, facilitating, and approving the construction of new housing, businesses, and infrastructure at a larger volume than ever before.

In a recent survey issued to local government community development professionals, 78% of respondents said that economic development was a high priority for them, and 53% ranked improving transportation and physical infrastructure a high priority.

This immediate need to promote economic growth and development is currently paired with once-in-a-lifetime federal funding. More specifically, federal funding passed through the Infrastructure Investment, Jobs Act, and Inflation Reduction Act is expected to begin flowing down to the state and local levels. Some of this funding will be distributed through expanded grants issued through the Departments of Transportation, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, and FEMA.

For example, funding for FEMA’S Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Program, which provides funds to state, local, tribal and territorial governments for hazard mitigation activities, has more than doubled from $1B in FY2021 to $2.295B in FY2022. The funding guidelines also encompass building safety as “capacity building activities” include building code updates and administration.

Strategies to Promote Economic Growth and Development

In addition to staying alert to federal funding opportunities, communities are getting shovel-ready for economic growth and development projects by organizing Comprehensive Plans and digitizing to offer better customer service. Read on for advice from three different communities – Claremore, OK; Burnsville, MN; and Hilliard, OH – and how they’re preparing for development in the 21st century with modern solutions.

Permitting and Pattern Zoning in Claremore, OK

Situated in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, the City of Claremore is located in the Tulsa Metropolitan area and has a high concentration of tribal communities, which adds another dimension to planning projects in the region. Claremore experienced about 5% growth in the last ten years and needed help with outdated processes that resulted in poor customer service and lost revenue. To save staff time and promote economic growth, the City decided to modernize its digital public services for a better customer experience and streamline internal processes.

Andrew Knife Chief, Director of Community Development, discussed the top initiatives the City undertook to be smart about economic growth and development:

  • Write a long-term Comprehensive Plan that outlines land use goals.
  • Create a Unified Development Code, consolidating building and planning codes in a single block of regulations that can be quickly referenced.
  • Digitize approval processes to create a one-stop shop for customers doing business with the City.

In addition, Claremore is also using “pattern zoning,” which helps expedite development by having the City hire architects to develop pre-approved building designs. Not only do these pre-approved plans cut steps out of the bureaucratic process, but they also help expedite economic development by providing rubber-stamped plans to residents who own property and want to do something with their buildings.

To learn more, join Claremore’s City Planner Kyle Clifton on this webinar hosted by the American Planning Association on Dec 14, 2022, at 1 pm ET.

Pictured: Downtown in Claremore, Oklahoma

Culture of Constant Improvement Revolutionizes Customer Service in Burnsville, MN

The City of Burnsville, MN, is an evolving community and influencer of technological advancement in the Midwest region, located just outside the Twin Cities (and five minutes from the Mall of America). With more than 6% growth over the last decade, Burnsville made promoting economic growth and development a top priority.

To plan for the City’s continued growth, Kim Douglas, Inspections Assistant for Burnsville, MN, encouraged collaboration and challenged the status quo by moving permits and licensing to an online solution, making it easier for economic growth and development in the city.

Douglas had several vital areas she wanted to focus on to encourage growth in Burnsville. First, she wanted to challenge the mantra of “But, this is how we’ve always done it” by “trimming the fat” from certain processes for different departments.

For example, combine both Planning and Development and Permits and Inspections so the information would only have to be entered once. This helped to both improve the online customer experience and create a quicker turnaround time for permits.

Second, she focused on consistent improvement and learning as she went. Douglas and her team saw impactful results, such as a 24-hour turnaround time on certain permits and licenses and an easier experience for both staff and applicants alike. By creating a simpler process, Burnsville is now able to issue more permits and licenses in the community and continue to support the growth and development.

Pictured: Burnsville, MN

Building Instant Permits in Hilliard, OH

At over 30%, Hilliard, OH’s growth rate over the last ten years is impressive. Not only is the Town experiencing rapid growth, but so is the area itself. The Columbus, OH area is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. Due to this much growth on a rapid scale, Hilliard was struggling with a large number of building permits in the backlog, causing massive administrative headaches. Dan Ralley, Assistant City Manager, wanted to introduce new efficiencies to not only keep up with Hilliard’s growth but also promote new economic growth and development.

Ralley’s main focus was consolidating processes for development to create a better experience. Previously, plans and permits were scattered across shared folders and staff members had no way to share updates with the public about the status of their applications. By focusing on consolidating processes, staff members were dealing with fewer angry phone calls and could approve building permits more efficiently. Ralley was also able to create “instant permits,” which means that if all of the information is filled out correctly on an online application and payment is made – and with the controls built into digital forms – the permit can be issued instantly without any further staff review. This helps cut out bureaucratic processes and reduces turnaround time for smaller-scale permits.

Pictured: Hilliard, OH

The Common Thread to Promoting Economic Growth and Development: Purpose-built Software

No matter how large or nuanced your community development needs, there is an easy-to-use platform available. Request a demo of OpenGov Citizen Services here and see how our cloud software enables you to say goodbye to piles of paper, messy spreadsheets, and cumbersome, legacy software – all in the spirit of economic growth and development. 

To learn more about our permitting and licensing solution, request a personal demo.

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