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City of Frederick Commercial Real Estate Economic Development Policies to be Reviewed

3 projects reach High Priority for the Economic Development Advisory Council for the City of Frederick.

Frederick Commercial Real Estate Economic Development Advisory CouncilAs the bright sunshine of summer of 2014 shone across the spires of Frederick last June, the City of Frederick’s Alderman Josh Bokee and Economic Development Director Richard Griffin illuminated some bright light of their own on a newly formed group to be known as the Economic Development Advisory Council.  Given the acronym EDAC, the carefully selected group of 16 members held its first meeting with the goal of providing “advice and specific recommendations to help ensure that the City of Frederick, both today and into the future, is the preferred community in the Baltimore Washington region for attracting private business investment, jobs, and economic opportunity.”

For the last six to eight years, as communities across the country have struggled to dig out of the recent economic difficulties, many local governments have had to take a hard look out how they can be more competitive in attracting new and expanding businesses into their communities.

The City of Frederick is no different. Times have changed and what used to work just a decade ago, often have turned from being a magnet or inconsequential matter for growth, can now cause business to pass over certain areas in their search for a new location.

Retail store startups, manufacturing businesses, office building and commercial land developers all carefully consider the friendliness of government business policies, programs and processing, before they make a decision is made.

Taxes assessed on real estate, income and personal property, as well as incentives for small and growing businesses, and local zoning ordinates are heavily weighed by these parties as they shop for new markets to conduct and locate business.

Since last June, the council, city staff and members of the broader Frederick Community have met several times to strategically discuss which city government policies and programs could be improved and new ones developed to assist our community in advancing that goal.

The Mayor asked that April Reardon, owner of the well-known vintage apparel shop the Velvet Lounge, and yours truly to act as co-chairs of EDAC which includes a cross section of the City’s business community.

Early on staff was concerned about over taxing the time of this busy band of volunteers, so they established a schedule of bi-monthly meetings (that’s 6 per year for those of you who finished high school prior to 1970). As the leaders of the council, April and I polled members to gauge how seriously they would be willing to take on the likely heavy lifting that surely lie ahead.  The consensus was to “bring it on.” These willing participants decided that they want to make a difference, by injecting some private sector creativity to some otherwise stagnant or out of date government policies.

The executive team of the council met with staff a number of times over the last several months and held some focus group meetings of various business leaders within the community.  Staff also conducted a survey that was sent out to council members and as a targeted ex-officio group of community leaders, who are kept abreast of EDAC meetings.

The result of all the background work has been that the council identified three priority areas that it should place focus upon Regulations, Taxes & Fees and Business Incentives/Support.

At the last full EDAC meeting on January 26, 2015, with a number of ex-officio members in the audience the council agreed to establish 3 subcommittees, one for each of the topics above.

Timelines were set to accomplish the highest priority for each group

  1.  Regulations – Tackle the City’s Land Management Code (LMC) to identify areas that could be revised and improved to assist in enhancing economic development within the city limits with recommendations to be presented periodically to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen over the next 16 months.
  2. Taxes & Fees – develop a phase out plan for the Business Personal Property Tax program with a recommendation to be completed by the end of this month.
  3. Business Incentives/Support – Create a Small Business Tool Kit which includes programs to encourage infill and redevelopment, particularly in Downtown Frederick with a target date for presentation being June 30, 2015.

As each subcommittee makes their final recommendations to the Mayor and Board, they will then identify the next priority within its scope of work.

Meetings will be held as often as each subcommittee deems necessary, and reports will be given at each of the regular bi-monthly EDAC meetings.

The next general meeting is set for later next month … and all meetings are open to the public.

Stay tuned, because EDAC means business!

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The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Frederick Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He has been an active member of the Frederick, Maryland community for over four decades.  He has served as chairman of the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital and as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012, to name a few.

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