You may have heard the old adage by former House Speaker Tip O’Neill – “All politics is local.” Think about the most recent federal government shutdown; did you feel the effects directly, or merely see the headlines on the news? For many of us, it was a small blip on the radar. Now think of our last winter and the condition of the roads. Most of us notice when our roads aren’t plowed, or when potholes emerged after the snow melted. While your local municipal building might not be as glamorous as the U.S. Capitol, the policies set in City Hall or your township building have potential to impact your operations and your customers’ experience as they interact with your business. Below are five common ways local elected officials can have a direct impact on businesses within the community.
1. Secure Funding and Resources
Local government is expected to advocate to state and federal policymakers for our fair share of funding and resources. Often state and federal lawmakers rely on the input of local elected officials as they craft policies and work through the budgeting process. Likewise, local governments are often responsible for implementing these programs and resources at the local level. Many of these resources and programs contribute to opportunities for economic growth such as streetscaping, gateways, and other quality of life improvements.
2. Set Infrastructure Priorities
As most business owners know, a well-planned and maintained transportation network is critical to the business community’s ability to move goods and services. Have you ever wondered who the key decision makers are when it comes to our region’s transportation system? While state and federal agencies certainly play a large role in planning this infrastructure, they rely heavily on the input of our local elected officials. Much of our region’s bridge and highway system is informed by a body known as the Erie Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The Erie MPO includes many local elected officials and their appointees.
3. Make Key Appointments to Local Authorities
Local policymakers are also in a position to promote growth through appointments to boards of organizations such as Redevelopment Authorities, Land Banks, Housing Authorities, Transit Authorities, and the like. For instance, the recently formed Erie County and City of Erie Land Banks required buy-in and appointments from not only the Mayor and County Executive, but also Erie City Council and Erie County Council. Without their action and leadership, the region would be lacking the powerful tool of these local land banks to fight our increasing numbers of blighted properties.
4. Create Tax Incentives
In addition to shaping these critical organizations, local elected officials are positioned to use tax incentives for targeted growth. Consider – for example – the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance incentive, commonly referred to as LERTA. Currently, the City of Erie is working toward a renewed LERTA. Incentives like this, and especially targeted incentives like Tax Increment Finance (TIF) can create opportunities for growth. Moving forward, the Chamber looks forward to working with the City of Erie and other municipalities to recommend strategies for focused incentives such TIF and other tools that help to support the community’s long term goals in addition to spurring economic vibrancy.
5. Influence the Education and Workforce Development Environment
Another example of local government critical to our region’s success is the school district and school boards. It is important to remember their role in promoting inclusive growth for the region. Economic development professionals agree that a vibrant and healthy school district makes a world of difference when attracting and retaining businesses to a community. It provides two measures for an incoming company – quality of life for their employees’ families as well as a means for educating the next generation of their workforce. It’s paramount in attracting talented professionals to our area, many of whom will be looking for a safe and vibrant community for their families.
This Tuesday, there will be candidates on the ballot for school board in several different school districts. Elected school board officials oversee and manage the resources needed throughout their districts. They are instrumental in advising and advocating for additional funding when needs arise and in working with other community leaders to pool resources to provide quality education. Additionally, school boards vote and approve policies that affect the tax millage rate, school budget, and are part of local tax incentive discussion. They are expected to as responsible stewards of resources on behalf of the students and greater community.
The Result: Building a Healthy Tax Base
As local government officials are proactive in their approach to the aforementioned five common roles, communities can expect to be positioned for economic growth. By encouraging economic growth, local officials build a healthy tax base, which means a healthy budget for essential services like police and road maintenance.
While a large portion of local government budgets stem from real estate tax revenue, the Earned Income Tax (EIT), which is a small tax (typically about 1%) on their community’s earned income, is equally important. For example, in 2017 the City of Erie reported a total tax revenue of $48 million. Approximately 66% of the total tax revenue came from real estate tax while 27% came from earned income and wage taxes.
Why does this matter to businesses? If the region as a whole work to improve the number of stable, family-sustaining jobs, local governments are better positioned to support our business community with essential services and unique amenities.
Local elections will have a more immediate impact on your daily life than most other elections. Some of the major primaries that could influence your business include:
More information on the candidates can be found here. A full listing of the 2019 Municipal Primary races and candidate list can be found on the Erie County website. Need to know where to vote? Click here to find your polling site.
Your vote and your voice matter. We would encourage you to get out and vote on May 21st to support the voice of the business community.
For a list of elected officials that represent your business or questions about how to stay involved with your local government, please feel free to contact Amy Murdock, Director of Government Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 814-403-7150.