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Oxford among tops to do biz

November 30, 2011 - Any community can claim it's a great place in which to do business, but only an elite few can back it up with the empirical findings of a prestigious university's research project.

For the second straight year, the Village of Oxford was recognized as one of the top 44 communities in the state when it comes to providing an environment that fosters economic growth.

"I think it says we are moving down the right path towards making the village more attractive to not only potential businesses, but also potential residents," said Kevin Stephison, who chairs the Downtown Development Authority and serves on the village council. "I'm excited that it's two years in a row and I look forward to seeing if we can make it three."

Oxford was one of 23 communities given a four-star rating as part of the 2011 eCities research project.

Other four-star communities included Northville, Novi, Grand Rapids, Madison Heights, Waterford, East Lansing and Frankenmuth.

The remaining 21 communities achieved five-star ratings.

"We've taken some giant leaps forward in the last couple years (with regard to) moving towards our goal of making the downtown a place that people want to be," Stephison said.

Even though Oxford was again recognized as one of the top communities in the state, the village did slip a bit in that last year, eCities ranked it as a five-star municipality.

eCities is an annual study that began in 2007 and examines the community factors that influence entrepreneurship, economic development and job growth in cities, townships and villages.

Conducted by iLabs, which is the University of Michigan-Dearborn's Center for Innovation Research, the study's primary purpose is to understand and share the best practices for entrepreneurial growth.

The eCities project surveyed more than 100 Michigan communities, which are home to 36 percent of the state's residents and 44 percent of its college graduates. These communities had more than $1 billion in commercial construction last year and more than half of them share services with other communities.

Unlike other entrepreneurial indexes, eCities examines growth at the community level. Using data supplied by participants as well as public records, the project assembles a six-factor, 30-item index.

The study looks at things such as tax rates and incentives; changes in business activity and commercial construction; the use of economic development tools by local government; socioeconomic and cultural factors such as crime rates and household incomes derived from self-employment; and the education levels of residents.

In Oxford's case, Stephison believes location plays a critical role in making the community such a desirable place in which to do business.

"One of the things I like about the community is while it is a small village, it has the potential to be a rather large village," he explained. "We sit at the almost-halfway point between Rochester and Clarkston. That creates an opportunity to expand your business outside of the zip codes, if you will."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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