Not Just Real-Estate: Chapel Hill’s Economic Strategy “Chained” Down?

Town information officer Catherine Lazorko opened up the flood gates today not only quickly responding to my request for the draft economic strategy report (Not Just Real-Estate: Chapel Hill’s Draft Economic Development Report) but this follow-up report on the meeting with the Council sub-committee on economic development.

TO: Roger Stancil, Town Manager
FROM: Dwight Bassett, Economic Development Officer
DATE: July 18, 2007
SUBJECT: Quick Report – Council Committee on Economic Development – July 17, 2007

The Council Committee on Economic Development met with the town manager and economic development officer to discuss existing goals and the proposed economic development strategy and objectives for Chapel Hill. Attending committee members were Mayor pro tem Bill Strom, Council Members Mark Kleinschmidt, Ed Harrison, and Jim Ward. Staff members present were Town Manager Roger Stancil and Economic Development Officer Dwight Bassett.

I presented copies of economic development strategies from other communities relevant to Chapel Hill. The plans included Clemson, SC (college town); Austin, TX (sustainability); Blacktown, Australia (general framework); and Toronto, Ontario (focused quality and knowledge economy).

Having familiarized myself with the Town’s current planning documents, I have concluded that there is need for a framed retail market analysis which shows leakage, weaknesses and regional market gaps in terms of population centers. Discussion centered on this need and how this can be accomplished without creating a new demand for retail development by national chains, and how we might frame this for local business development.

I presented the Committee members current goals for economic development from the Comprehensive Plan and other documents as well as a draft of an Economic Development Strategy Statement and proposed goals. Committee members requested that these goals should include wording about being proactive, nurturing development, green development, sustainability, diversity, and locally-owned businesses.

Questions were raised about how the Town can help create more opportunities for locally-owned businesses. I suggested adding that to the market study, or creating an additional study through the Small Business and Technology Development Center in conjunction with UNC. There are barriers to developing local businesses which need to be identified and overcome.
The Committee requested that I give information about the boundaries of economic development at a future meeting so that priorities could be discussed.

The Committee plans to meet again at the end of August to begin finalizing this Statement and Objectives.

The discussion of national chains is what must’ve prompted Councilmember Mark Kleinschmidt’s “involuntary scowl” (H-S).

Isn’t Trader Joes a national chain? Folks round Chapel Hill are going nuts waiting for their new Eastgate location to open.


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