Friday, February 22, 2013

An Inspiring Role for Local Government in Economic Development

As seen on ICMA's Center for Management Strategies
February 22 2013 | 7:00 AM | Tags: Fiscal HealthPriority Based Budgeting

“the next decade will be a time in which the fiscal woes of federal and state governments will leave local and regional governments on their own, struggling to balance the need for innovation against the necessity of making tough choices… it will also be a decade in which local government will lead the way in developing creative solutions to extraordinary problems. There are a number of reasons to be optimistic about this coming decade of local government”
-       Bob O’Neill, The Coming Decade of Local Government, Governing Magazine
In our work facilitating the identification of community priorities, economic development and job creation are clearly among the very top in every place we apply the process. From the City of Edmonton, Alberta (where they espouse the necessity of a “Diverse Economy”) to the Town of Cary, North Carolina (“Economic Vitality and Development”) to Lehigh County, Pennsylvania (“Economic Health”), what we do in local government to strengthen the local economy could not be of greater interest.
With this in mind, we recently picked up Gallup, Inc. Chairman Jim Clifton’s book “The Coming Jobs War,” mainly because it promised to be “What every leader must know about the future of job creation” on it’s cover! Coupled with Bob O’Neill’s powerful observations on “The Coming Decade of Local Government,” and our own unique experiences implementing Priority Based Budgeting all across the Country; we offer the following story about an interesting institution in Fort Collins, Colorado and what it shows us about the role of local government in economic development.
First, consider the following thoughts from Clifton’s book:
  • “If you were to ask me, ‘From all the data you have studied so far, where will the next breakthrough come from?’ my answer would be: From the combination of the forces within big cities, great universities, and powerful local leaders. Those three compose the most reliable, controllable solution. The cornerstone of these three is cities. All cites count and can contribute” (Page 63)
  • “What we need more than anything in our quest to win new good jobs in our cities is that rare talent to start new companies or to create business models that work, that grow organizations – big ones, small ones, medium-sized ones, sustainable ones” (Page 84)
  • “Last year, I attended a meeting at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. A group of leaders and CEO’s of the biggest government and university labs in the country told me that they have inventions – some as big or bigger than the Internet – now on their shelves, done and ready to go. [They] have an oversupply of discoveries, breakthrough, and inventions gathering dust because they don’t know how to turn them into something customers want.” (Page 85)
  • “The heroes for this moment in history will come from those who guide, advise, encourage, and mentor a small business to success” He calls them “Super Mentors” (Page 74)
And finally…
  • “Super mentors can be almost anyone, but they are not the innovators nor the entrepreneurs. They are the ones who light fires under the innovators and entrepreneurs…they do things like help entrepreneurs get a banker or a good lead, give advice, lend a hand or a shoulder at critical moments…[they are] an essential aspect of originating new jobs.” (Page 74)
Enter: Fort Collins’ Rocky Mountain Innosphere
The Rocky Mountain Innosphere (RMI) started in 1998, (as a recent article in the Coloradoan pointed out) “connecting startup companies with advisers.”
Remember Clifton’s concept of “Super mentors,” and the need for innovators to find a successful business model?
This from the Innosphere’s website: “RMI provides entrepreneurial startup companies with resources such as assistance with raising capital, access and connections with academic and government institutions, a network of advisors and mentors including several who are in residence, discounted professional service providers and educational and networking opportunities for realizing business success.”
The Innosphere is exactly the type of environment Clifton says is crucial to job creation.
Kevin Duggan from the Coloardoan continues, “the Innosphere works with 30 to 35 client companies a year, providing education, mentoring from business executives and networking. It connects companies with potential investors and the capital they need to grow.
Most interestingly, and back to the decade of local government, RMI is not a city program, although the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland are contributors to the partnership. If anything, RMI is the holy grail of the “shared service model” that you hear about from ICMA’s Center for Management Strategies. “The incubator is a private nonprofit corporation. Its operations are funded through private donations and annual contributions from the state government, Colorado State University, local banks, Loveland and the City of Fort Collins.”
Priority Based Budgeting and The Role of Local Government
We come full circle in this discussion to Bob O’Neill’s “Decade of Local Government,” and our own work in Priority Based Budgeting with the City of Fort Collins.
The City of Fort Collins, just like every other city and county we’ve helped to implement PBB, also strives to achieve (in their words) “Economic Health.” It’s a priority (just as you can see from their website, here).
But City leaders were brilliant enough to realize that creating the type of nirvana of job creation that Clifton has envisioned, need not come in the shape and size of a City program.
Most interestingly, the City’s share of funding to support RMI scored well in the PBB process – it’s was a high priority. However, using the filters of the PBB Model, it was clear that this was a program that others could offer and were offering in the form of business support (in other words, the City need not be the only player in providing this service), that the City wasn’t mandated to do, and was unlikely to pay for itself. Through the lens of PBB, this points precisely in the direction of a partnership. The role of government, even in a high-priority program, is not always to be the direct service provider; it can be a key partner!
We’re honored to be part of the work of the City of Fort Collins – a leader in the pursuit of results-based resource allocation. And we’re so excited to be working in this “Decade of Local Government” when there is so much to explore and accomplish.
Special thanks to Darren Attebery (City Manager, City of Fort Collins) and Mike Freeman (CEO, Rocky Mountain Innosphere) for inspiring this post.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Walnut Creek's Enviable "State"

Walnut Creek's enviable 'State'

By Dana Guzzetti, Correspondent, Contra Costa Time

WALNUT CREEK -- The state of the city is pretty solid with folks who live here, it appears.

"Walnut Creek residents are overwhelmingly satisfied with our quality of life," Mayor Cindy Silva said as part of a lengthy 2013 "State of the City" presentation at the Lesher Center for the Arts during which she shared city accomplishments and challenges. She cited a city-commissioned report. "Ninety-six percent say the quality of life is excellent or good."

She praised the four-year effort of past councils, city employee concessions and volunteers in balancing the city's $135.5 million 2012-14 budget with no General Fund debt and $9.9 million in reserves.

"Fiscal sustainability is the city council's number one priority," Silva said while warning of unfunded state and federal mandates that cost $11 million last year (includes CalPERS adjustments).

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

3 of Top 20 Best Run Cities Have Implemented PBB; Including #1!

24/7 Wall Street has published it's report on the The Best (and Worst) Run Cities in America. Congratulations to The City of Plano, Texas for topping the list as #1: The Best Run City in America! The City of Chandler, Arizona and the City of Chesapeake, Virginia were #12 and #13 respectively. Three of the top run cities in America have implemented Priority Based Budgeting, including the #1 city!

Most fascinating is that "fiscal stability" is among the top factors influencing their definition of "effective governance."

According to the Report:

"All those factors, of course, are directly affected by how a city is managed. Mayors, school boards, and city councils all have a role to play in that regard. All of these groups must work with the resources available to keep budgets balanced."

Friday, February 1, 2013

PBB Fit for Washington? Montana Rep Daines Applauds City of Billings

Daines says federal government could learn from Billings' budget process

Congress could learn a lot from Montana about governing, new U.S. Rep. Steve Daines told Billings city officials Thursday.

Daines, making his first on-the-job stop in Billings since taking office Jan. 3, told Mayor Tom Hanel and city administrators that the federal government needed a Montana approach to budgeting. He praised the city’s approach to cutting costs.

“Washington desperately needs these kinds of ideas,” Daines said. “I think the priority-based budgeting approach  — something we do in business — and we’re seeing that with the city of Billings, is something I want to take back to Washington.”