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Village chosen for county pilot program



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February 01, 2012 - Oxford Village was one of five communities selected last week to participate in Oakland County's "One Stop Ready" pilot, a new economic development program.

"I think it says that the county realizes the value of our village and our township, and that they see, as we see, the potential for growth," said Oxford Village Councilman Kevin Stephison, who also serves as chairman of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). "They want to work with us to help us maximize our potential to its fullest."

The goal of the "One Stop Ready" pilot program is to increase economic development by streamlining the local government processes new and existing businesses must face in order to make their projects a reality.

It's designed to reduce the delays and bureaucratic red tape that can often be an obstacle to attracting and retaining businesses.

"The biggest thing for Oxford is it allows them really to be our partner in trying to develop some 'best practice' resources we can use throughout the county," said Matt Gibb, deputy county executive in charge of economic development and community affairs. "Let's define what will work best for our communities."

Oxford Village – along with Rochester, Lyon Township, Wixom and Ferndale – will be working closely with the county's Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs to find out how they each can increase their ability to respond quickly and efficiently to economic development opportunities.

Participating communities will assess the strengths and weaknesses of their current policies and procedures, then learn from each other and the county.

"It's really intended for us and them to figure out what's working the best for Oxford (and) point out some things (which) other communities might be doing a different way that might be a better fit for Oxford," Gibb said. "It's a program to help each other learn what's really going to work and get everybody to be more efficient."

Thanks to technology, today's economy is extremely fast-paced and local governments must be able to keep up in order to compete and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves, according to Gibb.

"What we're finding at the county is we've got small businesses (and) large businesses that are making decisions on where they're going, what they're doing in 24-hour (time frames)," he said.

Gibb noted how the popular AT&T television commercial tagline "that's so 20 seconds ago" gives a fairly accurate picture of how fast people expect to receive information these days.

"We've got young business people coming in our office and that's their attitude," Gibb said. "If they don't get an answer right away, they're walking out the door."

"One Stop Ready" aims "to create a culture" where local governments are "more responsive," so they don't lose out on opportunities.

Gibb indicated Oxford Village was selected for the pilot program because its DDA is "very strong" and "it's one of our better Main Street programs."

"We invited Oxford in, in part because they're already doing a lot of great stuff," he said.

However, Oxford was also selected because of some comments within the business community that there's still room for improvement in the village.

"For those reasons, Oxford made a perfect choice for us," Gibb said.

Stephison believes the interaction between businesses and government in Oxford is "pretty much the same as it is in a lot of communities."

"You have a lot of permits, paperwork, hoops to jump through and not always the clearest line of demarcation (indicating) which way you need to go," he said. "It can be kind of frustrating sometimes – whether you're a new business or an existing business – just trying to get to the end of the process."

Stephison is hoping the "One Stop Ready" program will be able to eliminate as much of that frustration as possible.

One way is by conducting informal preliminary meetings between business representatives and government officials to make sure everybody's on the same page and has all their ducks in a row.

"The idea is to work through all the issues that right now can sideline or set back a process," Stephison said. "When you take a plan to the planning commission, if it's missing something, you have to go back, add it on and go back (to the commission) again. You've got at least a month, two-month lag every time you have to do that.

"By having everybody in the same room for a preliminary meeting with the drawings, you could just move things along quicker."

Stephison made it clear this is not about circumventing the village's existing rules and procedures.

"We're not suspending or superceding any ordinances or anything," he said. "It's streamlining and making the process more efficient."

Gibb indicated the county is not trying to make every community identical through its "One Stop Ready" program.

"We know it's not one-size-fits-all," he said. "We want to create it so it highlights what the best practices are for good community development, not just economic development. But it's got to fit what you want your vision of your community to be."

County officials are expected to begin the process in Oxford within a month and have the pilot complete by the beginning of June.One way is by conducting informal preliminary meetings between business representatives and government officials to make sure everybody's on the same page and has all their ducks in a row.

"The idea is to work through all the issues that right now can sideline or set a process back," Stephison said. "When you take a plan to the planning commission, if it's missing something, you have to go back, add it on and go back (to the commission) again. You've got at least a month, two-month lag every time you have to do that.

"By having everybody in the same room for a preliminary meeting with the drawings, you could just move things along quicker."

Stephison made it clear this is not about circumventing the village's rules and procedures.

"We're not suspending or superceding any ordinances or anything," he said. "It's streamlining and making the process more efficient."

Gibb indicated the county is not trying to make every community the same through its "One Stop Ready" program.

"We know it's not one-size-fits-all," he said. "We want to create it so it highlights what the best practices are for good community development, not just economic development. It's got to fit what you want your vision of your community to be."

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