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New Tools

Though the city has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development in the Plaza and downtown, some areas of our city continue to experience a decline in business activity and population. The existing tools to offer incentives for real estate and commercial development are inadequate to meet the challenges in areas that are economically disadvantaged.

The “old” tools, such as Tax Increment Financing (TIF), were designed to lift up the disadvantaged areas of our city. But the funds were abused. Instead of using TIF funds for the disadvantaged areas, they were used in areas that were thriving, such as Briarcliff. And because TIF’s were allowed to be developer driven, developers targeted projects in areas where development was relatively easy, thereby maximizing their profits using government assistance.

While I immediately reined in the abuse of TIF’s, for the benefit of our entire city, I also needed a policy in place to encourage development in the economically challenged areas of our city, because when one area of our city suffers, so does the rest of our city.

Since the “old tools” weren’t working, I developed “New Tools” for economic development. New Tools is an ongoing process designed to transform communities from distress to success. Its overall goal is to holistically increase population, individual economic opportunities, business growth, business profits, quality jobs, and property values by building safe and livable neighborhoods.

In 2008, I convened a symposium of economists, developers, business people, community leaders and elected officials to begin generating ideas for New Tools for economic development. From there, I established a 30-member New Tools Taskforce, including representatives from the City Council, community stakeholders and individuals involved in economic development.

Today, various individuals and groups are working on the projects that were identified from the process, such as acquiring vacant lots for use as community property, establishing urban agriculture businesses, and forming a community development credit union. In time, we will begin to connect these once-neglected areas of the city to the thriving parts of our city.

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