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Scottsdale leaders await new economic development plan

Plan goal is to guide the city’s economic development department activities for the next 3-5 years.

By Edward GatelyThe Republic | azcentral.com Tue Feb 18, 2014 10:27 AM 



Scottsdale plans to transform and accelerate its economic-development efforts with a new strategy to be considered in May by the City Council. The council’s subcommittee on economic development on Feb 13 received an update on the strategic-plan framework. The city hired IO Inc. of Phoenix to conduct the framework process.The goal of the framework is to guide the activities of the city’s economic development department in the next three to five years. IO, so far, has interviewed 179 Scottsdale stakeholders, including city leadership, top employers, major business/civic organizations and individuals.



Emerging themes in the interviews are that the city has an “embarrassing abundance” of strengths and assets, such as quality-of-life amenities, an arts and culture legacy, citizens who are actively engaged, quality health care and schools, and improved development- and permit-approval processes. Weaknesses include limited transportation options, high cost of housing and lack of attainable housing for young professionals, and lack of vision and commitment to invest in the future, according to the feedback.



“The city is underinvested in economic development,” said Ioanna Morfessis, IO’s president.



The city needs to allocate more resources to economic development, elevate staff’s professional training and certification, and establish the city’s economic-development department as a premier organization in the United States, she said.



Priority sectors targeted for future growth include biosciences and advanced business services, such as financial services and insurance,and their regional, national and international headquarters. Also targeted are technology and innovation, hospitality/visitor trade and commerce, and higher education.



An “actionable” plan for economic development will be ready for the council in May, Morfessis said.



In addition, the council also will consider options for financing implementation of the new plan, said Danielle Casey, city’s economic-development director.



Council members Linda Milhaven and Dennis Robbins said they are looking forward to seeing the rest of the plan. Also during the subcommittee meeting, members received further information regarding the Los Arcos redevelopment plan, which was approved for a 20-year time frame in July 1996.



The basic goal of the Los Arcos plan was to revitalize the commercial areas to maintain and strengthen residential neighborhoods. Through redevelopment efforts, the blightin the commercial areas could be halted, leading to an increase in property values. The area specified in the Los Arcos plan includes commercial property along McDowell and Scottsdale roads, from Thomas Road south to McKellips Road, and from Pima Road west to 64th Street. Potential options for dealing with the plan include letting it expire, updating and continuing it,or removing the redevelopment designation.



Development powers available in redevelopment areas allow cities to offer property-tax relief, financial aid and other incentives to major projects that support economic growth and redevelopment. Powers of eminent domain are available, and bonds can be issued. In addition, the requirements for public bidding of properties are reduced, and grant-funding opportunities are enhanced, as are the possibilities for land assemblage.



Robbins said that, instead of continuing the Los Arcos plan, the city could establish a new zoning district to provide similar incentives for individual redevelopment projects in the area.



Mayor Jim Lane said the designation has been of concern to property owners because of the perceived threat of eminent domain, the condemnation process government uses to acquire property.



Subcommittee members agreed they would first like to see the overall strategy for economic development before considering options for the Los Arcos plan because it could provide direction for future efforts in the area.



Milhaven said the council should “let the economic development master plan guide where we go.”

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