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- 2012 - October - 4th -

Council to review last piece of economic development reform

by David Chapman, Staff Writer

Legislation to expedite the approval of economic incentive deals, the third and final piece of Mayor Alvin Brown’s economic development reform proposed in March, has sat on the backburner in recent months but will soon be discussed again by City Council.

The legislation is in four committees and City Council President Bill Bishop said Wednesday he plans to send letters to those chairs asking for a joint meeting or meetings to discuss and learn more about the legislation so that they can then act on it. The legislation is still in the Council Rules; Finance; Recreation and Community Development; and Public Health and Safety committees.

A similar format was used to pass the first two parts of the economic development reform pertaining to the creation of the Office of Economic Development and the Downtown Investment Authority, which took months but were passed before Council undertook budget hearings in August.

Bishop said passing those first two before a cumbersome budget process began was the goal, but it is time to resume activity on the final part, which he called a “big deal.”

The legislation would provide that certain items relating to economic development be allowed approval in one or two readings — provided by the City’s economic development incentives policy — and by way of Council resolution instead of ordinance.

The changes would shave weeks off the review and approval process of some of the economic incentive deals, a step JAXUSA Partnership President Jerry Mallot on Wednesday said would make the City more competitive when attempting to bring companies and jobs to the area.

He said when potential clients make the decision to move or expand, they often need approval on such deals at a pace quicker than what Jacksonville currently offers, which can be about a 10-week turnaround.

He said the legislation would help the City have more of a business-friendly approach.

Mallot is in New York meeting with site consultants and clients for potential deals and said questions about the approval policy came up twice during business discussions.

Bishop said he does not anticipate Council’s review of the legislation to be as difficult as the review legislation that created the economic development office and Downtown authority, which were rewritten for clarification.

He said it should not take an “inordinate” amount of time and anticipated it would be done by years-end. The toughest part would be establishing the “ground rules” of details for the overall economic development policy and what deals would be able to be streamlined, he said.

“The goal is to streamline the process,” he said. “The whole idea is that if we establish good policy up front and those deals fit those parameters, then they are good.”

He also agreed with Mallot’s goal for making the City more competitive in attracting jobs.

“Other cities are eating our lunch on this stuff,” Bishop said.

David DeCamp, Brown’s communication director, said the administration is looking forward to working with Council on refining the policy and delivering legislation that will make the city more competitive in the marketplace.

dchapman@baileypub.com

356-2466

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