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Developing a pro-business attitude
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Over the years, one thing I have learned about automobiles is that your wheels need to be aligned. You get better gas mileage, and the car performs at a higher level. It also prevents some wear and tear on the car. In economic development I have learned how important alignment is between the public and private sectors. When the two sectors are working together for economic development, amazing things can happen. When the two are at odds with each other, there can be stagnation and distrust.

I think most of us would agree that it is the private sector that drives the economy. When the private sector is doing well, there are more tax dollars to support the government. More dollars are spent on new cars, houses, dining, recreation and the arts. So how can the public sector support the private sector in ensuring that the private sector can fly? Some people call it a pro-business attitude. Others call it reducing barriers to business and finding creative ways to support the needs of business while balancing what is important for the public good.

I would like to propose that we make Stanislaus County the most pro-business county in California. There are several things we can do to achieve this goal. First, we can improve the permitting process. When a company wants to expand, what can we do to expedite the permitting process and make it as friendly as possible? Recently, Hilmar Cheese announced an expansion in Turlock. Turlock city staff and elected officials worked with the company to fast track the permitting process in which permits that would have taken months to secure were granted in weeks. Turlock found ways to get pre-approval on certain permits before Hilmar's decision to expand was announced. This is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking we need.

Second, city staffers, elected officials and our Chamber of Commerce partners can join us on our business visitation program. When we conduct these visits we ask the business executives a number of questions about their experience in the community. The visit helps us to accomplish three goals. We build a relationship of trust with the company executives. We learn about immediate issues that need to be resolved. And we gather a lot of aggregate data that can help us see trends. When we learn about issues we also need to resolve them. Recently, I had the opportunity to join Bryan Whitemyer, city manager of Oakdale, on a visit to a prominent Oakdale company. We conducted the survey. A parking issue came up in the course of the conversation. Bryan solved the issue the very next day. We received a very complimentary email from the company's lead manager. This is a great example of achieving alignment between the public and private sectors.

Third, we can take a look at the fees we assess. Would it be advantageous to make sure our fees are in the bottom tier of fees throughout the state? I have seen some data to show that we are favorable compared to the Bay Area and neighboring counties. But how do we compare with all California counties? That will be a good research project for our Business Resource Center.

Finally, we can all project a pro-business attitude in the way we interact with customers. Nobody does customer service better than the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs. As part of my recruitment to my former job in Colorado Springs, my wife and I were put up at the Broadmoor. They assigned us a porter named Randy who was to make sure that we were treated like royalty. He knew our names. He opened the door for us. He carried our luggage. When we arrived in our room, he even poured us a drink. When we were all settled, Randy asked if there was anything else he could do. I replied, "Can you do a quick song and dance routine?" He thought I was serious. After thinking for a couple of moments, Randy responded, "I don't dance and sing, but I know someone who does." I then told him I was kidding. A look of relief swept over his face. If we all had that level of customer service, each business executive we deal with would feel that they are the most important person on the planet.

Control the things we can control! We can control our attitudes toward business.