The Gainesville area is poised to be a global hub of talent, innovation and opportunity. Making it easier to do business in the region is vital to realizing this ambitious — but doable — vision.
The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce has launched public-private partnerships with the City of Gainesville and Alachua County to improve the business climate in the region.
Launched in Nov. 2013, the Gainesville Small Business Growth Task Force is co-chaired by Mayor Ed Braddy and Chamber President & CEO Tim Giuliani. It was established to create momentum behind the Chamber’s 27 recommendations to grow small businesses in Gainesville.
The 27 administrative and policy recommendations, which were outlined in the Chamber’s June 2013 Small Business Growth Report, involve the six business principles of accessibility, accountability, simplicity, consistency, affordability and efficiency.
The task force has achieved some success.
The City has addressed nearly half of the 27 recommendations and has committed to making meaningful progress on more over the coming months.
Several notable achievements should be highlighted.
- In March, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) staff announced nine initiatives developed jointly with the local development community to ensure that the GRU plan review process for projects is streamlined, efficient and cost-effective.
- In January, the Gainesville city manager issued a new “Stakeholder Participation in Policy Development” administrative policy procedure to engage stakeholders in policy development prior to bringing proposed policies forward for discussion by policy boards.
- Last November, a six-month pilot project was launched to provide the Gainesville City Building Department office hours for a half-day on Fridays. A variety of services were offered as well as a planner to provide zoning compliance determinations and other non-appointment planning services.
The task force is committed to facilitating small business growth and economic development in Gainesville. Through effective communication and collaboration, city government officials and business leaders are turning “talking points” about facilitating business growth into “doing points.”
Of course, much remains to be done, and breakthrough city staff announcements should be evaluated over time through the prism of efficient execution and end-user (think business owner) experience.
The task force process has blown wind into the sails of the “small business growth” boat, but those on board must remain on one accord to continue sailing in the right direction.
A similar public-private initiative is underway at the county level.
On April 16, the Chamber and the Alachua County Commission jointly held the Business and Economic Growth Workshop to garner community feedback on how to promote economic development and job creation in Alachua County.
Tim Giuliani, County Commission Vice Chair Susan Baird, County Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) member Dave Ferro and Alachua County Growth Management Director Steve Lachnicht delivered remarks at the event.
Approximately 70 business people, government officials and others gathered around eight tables at the Senior Recreation Center and — using Alachua County’s Strategic Plan for Economic Development as a starting point — discussed what priorities, policies and programs could best facilitate economic opportunities in the county.
The first topic addressed by roundtable participants was the perception of economic development in Alachua County. The second topic was the question of what should stay, what should go and what should be added to the county’s strategic plan.
“Economic development is about promoting and creating opportunities that will provide people with a greater access to wealth…this is achieved by encouraging a more diversified and stronger economy,” reads the document.
An observation from one table was that Alachua County is “too dependent on federal funding,” specifically as an economic driver. The same table noted that “arts and culture can be drivers to our regional economy” and that the county needs to have a better marketing plan to tell “our story.”
The next step in the partnership is to craft an Economic Development Implementation Plan and provide recommendations to the Alachua County Commission for consideration.
What is the grand takeaway from the Chamber’s collaboration with the city and county?