"We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and, ultimately, human fulfillment are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefiting from their success -- only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive and free. Trust the people. This is the one irrefutable lesson of the entire postwar period contradicting the notion that rigid government controls are essential to economic development."
-- RONALD REAGAN
As mayor of a city, I often find myself in random conversations with those I serve as an elected official.
These discussions typically focus on the commercial development within our community, including the high-interest topics of vacant buildings and business or restaurant recruitment. What is frequently misunderstood is the appropriate role of government in not supplanting private real estate professionals but, rather, bolstering and facilitating their efforts.
While the government's role should be as a facilitator of the private sector, there are many aggressive actions that municipalities can use to support commercial enterprise.
Some of these proactive initiatives include: direct marketing contact to companies, partnerships and coordination with strategic economic development partners, city membership and activity in key industry trade associations, face-to-face meetings with businesses and providing quality infrastructure for the municipality's economy.
The economy cannot act for itself when it becomes too dependent on government subsidies. Once municipalities directly subsidize commercial ventures, an expectation arises that subsidies will be required for all future developments in that community. Direct subsidies also create risk. There is never a guarantee that any given business will succeed.
However, there are still many appropriate investments that municipalities can make to support the private sector. A good example of such an outlay is infrastructure. Infrastructure can serve all businesses in an area and is a necessary cost of doing business.
The management of financial growth in any community should encompass the most important issues facing that body of people and the quality of life enjoyed in its neighborhoods.
At the forefront of any proactive economic development effort should be the needs of the city and those who reside and do business within its borders. A broad variety and financial diversity should be sought to enhance and even complement what already exists.
Steve Curtis is mayor of Layton. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.