Friday, July 18, 2014

Cities as centers of economic growth

Last week's Municipal Association Annual Meeting was a great way to showcase the importance of cities and towns as a critical part of the state's economic success.

If you missed the session that covered the topic of how cities can be "entrepreneur ready," take a minute to read the article in the Charleston Regional Business Journal. To listen to the audio of this high energy session featuring Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt and four entrepreneurs from around the state, click here or read the earlier blog post here.

Another session focused on a city's role in helping smaller businesses leverage the Internet to extend their reach beyond Main Street. Cities have an important role to play in helping local merchants understand technology and how it can expand their customer base. Successful Main Street merchants from Newberry and Laurens joined the Association's Main Street SC manager for a conversation focused on what businesses can do to leverage online reach and what cities can do to support them. Read about it here.

SC cities are clearly on the rebound from the recession. In a blog post this week, the SC Economic Developers Association examines a study by Area Development magazine that looks at how cities are prepared for economic growth. Nine South Carolina cities and their surrounding metro areas were identified using 21 measurements such as unemployment rates, manufacturing job creation, wages and educational attainment of the local workforce. 

Another recent SCEDA blog post discusses why downtown locations are increasingly appealing to corporate headquarters. The post quotes a Brookings Institution study noting many corporate leaders are realizing the importance of working locally with mayors, businesses and universities. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

74th Annual Meeting a Success!

The Annual Meeting is always the highlight of the year for the Municipal Association. Last week, more than 1,100 elected officials, city staff, speakers, exhibitors and other guests participated in classes, learned from each other, and shared successes and challenges.

There were more than 20 educational sessions covering topics from public safety to parliamentary procedure and economic development to ethics filings. Audio, handouts and articles related to many of the sessions are already posted on the Association's website. Others will be posted later in the week.

Charleston and the Lowcountry always provide a great backdrop to showcase local successes. The meeting started with a mobile tour attended by more than 100 officials who visited Mt. Pleasant's waterfront park, Shem Creek park and business incubator to learn about how that town's success could be duplicated. Despite a very hot day, the participants from cities of all sizes learned a great deal from the collaborative process Mt. Pleasant has employed in its economic development approach.

The Friday morning opening session kicked off with Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts being elected president of the Association along with four new board members.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley gave the keynote address to a capacity crowd gathered in the Riviera Theater on Charleston's King Street. The venue was fitting since it was refurbished under Riley's leadership (interestingly the theater was built in 1939, the year the Association hired its first executive director). Riley's high energy speech about the power of collaboration and teamwork in local government was a great start to the conference. If you missed his address, listen to it here.

SC Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt followed the keynote with another capacity crowd learning about how to make their cities "entrepreneur ready." Hitt reinforced the Commerce Department's commitment to small business and high-growth potential entrepreneurs, in particular. He led a lively discussion with four entrepreneurs involved with businesses as diverse as HR software development and sustainable agriculture. The big take-away from the panelists to city officials was to find your niche and grow it! Listen to the session here. There's also an article in the summer issue of Cities Mean Business magazine showcasing these entrepreneurs (see pg 6). Or read the article from the Charleston Regional Business Journal.

One take-away from the break-out sessions that officials need to pay particular attention to is the impending changes related to financial reporting of pension liabilities. These changes put forth through GASB 68 have the potential to make cities look insolvent. While this is not the case, city officials need to educate themselves on how to explain this accounting change to people in their cities. Get background here.

A second take-away reinforced many times throughout the meeting is the importance of collaboration and partnerships in successful cities. This came through loud and clear in all of the the economic development and government must work together!

A highlight of the Annual Meeting is the awards breakfast. This year, eight cities won Achievement Awards recognizing their great work in a variety of categories.

The 74th Annual Meeting is now one for the books. The Association staff wants to hear from people who attended what they thought about the meeting and what can make next year's even better. Please complete our survey.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Making Cities "Entrepreneur-Ready"

In today’s global economy, innovation is a key element of business success. And the SC Department of Commerce has recognized the value of encouraging innovation by establishing an Office of Innovation to spearhead the state’s efforts to attract, grow and maintain this rapidly expanding sector of our economy. 

The state’s Innovation Plan, released by the Department of Commerce in 2013, outlines several steps the state must follow in order to attract high-tech, high-growth businesses - especially entrepreneurial small businesses. One part of this plan is a $24 million grant program to foster technology-based economic development, entrepreneurship and innovation through university collaboration, local government participation or public-private partnerships.

The latest issue of the Association’s Cities Mean Business magazine features four winners of Commerce’s first innovation grants. These leaders in the state’s entrepreneurial movement will be featured tomorrow morning during a session at the Association’s Annual Meeting in Charleston. 

Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt will lead a conversation with these four dynamic entrepreneurs who will discuss what local elected leaders must consider to make their hometowns “entrepreneur ready.” Panelists are 
From attracting locally-grown high-tech companies to planting seeds for the success of sustainable agriculture jobs, cities must be nimble and open to new approaches if they are to attract this new type of entrepreneur.

Read the article here (p6) and also learn what Commerce’s Director of Innovation, Amy Love, has to say about the state’s focus on growing an entrepreneurial culture (p5).

Monday, July 7, 2014

Don't put council meetings in jeopardy

Lots of rules and procedures guide how council meetings are run. These rules are put in place to ensure all sides of an issue can be heard in a fair and orderly manner. Some procedures are set by law like the number of readings a council must give a budget and how many times monthly a council must meet.

Most rules and procedures, however, are set by ordinance by each individual council. Many councils use Roberts Rules as a guide. However, Roberts Rules doesn't address many of the specific issues a council may face.

This Uptown article outlines some of the local situations that need to be addressed beyond Roberts Rules, such as voting to enter into executive session or publishing agendas to comply with FOIA requirements. 

The Municipal Association's Handbook for Conducting Effective Meetings is a great place to start when trying to make sense of all the various rules and procedures a council must follow. The handbook includes a model rules of procedure ordinance many councils have found helpful in establishing their own. 

A recent Supreme Court ruling regarding amending meeting agendas is another important issue to consider. While the court found a meeting agenda isn't required by law, the Association recommends to cities it should be a best practice to have an agenda for all meetings posted a minimum of 24 hours in advance of the meeting. Read more here.

The current issue of Uptown includes a great article addressing the importance of rules of procedure. Also take a look at this presentation by certified parliamentarian Paul Krone to learn about many of the more commonly used motions and procedures.

If you are heading to the Annual Meeting, don't miss the breakout session on this topic, Don’t Put Your Council Meeting in ‘Jeopardy,’ on Saturday, July 12, at 2:30 p.m. During this fun and informative session, audience members can test their knowledge during a game of “Jeopardy” – municipal style - while learning more about the interesting complexities of parliamentary procedure.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Is Your City "Grant-Ready"?

Identifying grants can sometimes feel like looking for a magic formula. Most cities don't have the staff resources or time committed to an aggressive grant strategy. 

But there are ways around this challenge. In an Annual Meeting breakout session, Britton Bonner, an attorney with Adams and Reese in Mobile, Alabama and Washington, DC, will outline how a city can increase its chances of success in accessing federal dollars by taking several proactive steps to be “grant ready.”

1 - Devote resources
2 - Identify projects
3 - Be diligent

4 - Coordinate with congressional offices
5 - Look for the state component

6 - Demonstrate leverage
7 - Integrate economic development and governmental relations

Learn more about these seven steps in thee June Uptown or attend the Annual Meeting session on Friday, July 11, at 1:45 p.m.