Private sector business drives the economy. It creates wealth. Without a vibrant private sector economy any city will struggle. With a vibrant private sector economy any city has the potential to succeed.
The goal of any Municipal administration should be to create conditions that attract private sector investment and produce an environment in which business’ thrive. In the 21st century investment capital is extremely mobile. The handicap of distance is not nearly as burdensome an impediment to Anchorage as it has been in the past. At the same time, however, attracting capital investment is more competitive than ever. Anchorage must create an environment that attracts investment.
Fortunately, we start with a world-class advantage. Anchorage is an amazing location. Breathtaking wilderness is little more than a walk from most places in Anchorage. Our natural advantages, however, are not enough. We must ensure that other non-natural factors are also in place if we expect Anchorage to be a location where businesses seek to invest. First, we have to have a safe city. Second, we need a city with excellent schools. (It should be noted that having excellent schools is not co-equal with a large education budget. Persons considering investment in a community want to ensure that educational outcomes are excellent. Spending a lot of money on less than stellar academic results is a detriment to attracting investment. Accordingly, we must focus on results, not on specific budget amounts, in determining whether we are providing an attractive environment for investment). Third, we must ensure our world-class trails and public spaces are not diminished by homeless camps and their detritus.
We must ensure that our government and civic organizations whose missions are economic development are producing results. Economic development is not simply a wish list for our future, but a plan and a real expectation.
We must ensure that our municipal planning department and the codes they enforce are not an unreasonable detriment to investment. More than one mayor has attempted to streamline the building process with somewhat limited results. This effort must be maintained until we can feel confident that our system is both as efficient and as safe as possible.
Finally, we must work diligently with our state representatives to ensure we have the tools available to provide meaningful tax deferral and abatement when necessary to attract needed business investment. Anchorage must be able to compete with other locations to attract much needed capital. Related to this, we must ensure our method for funding community infrastructure is not an impediment to development and growth. If we maintain an unrelenting commitment to creating a climate attractive to private sector investment, we will succeed, even in trying economic times.