Coming Together To Grow November 2022
16 November 2022
Economic Development is ever changing, and your team in York County is constantly working on various types of projects. Some are very visible, and some are not. It is not uncommon for us to be working on the same goal from many different angles for several years. Today I’d like to spend a few minutes speaking about how we’re working to support entrepreneurs and small business development.
One of our services offered is technical assistance. Often after a conversation, I may be given templates, connections and resources, or even help identify what tools to use. Sometimes this revolves around a business plan, a discussion about marketing efforts, or even us spending some time showing how the Size Up | York County tool can be used. This is an on-line data analytical tools anyone can use at anytime for small businesses in York County. YCDC made an investment last November, and committed to providing this tool to our business and entrepreneurs for three years. Since that time, we’ve seen over 400 people utilize this tool on our website. If you are exploring a business idea, the tool is there for you to see if there is a need in the county. If you are with a small business, the tool can help identify competitors, suppliers, places to market, and compare the business to competitors. YCDC is working with our partners to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship, and this was one thing we could do to help.
Through planning efforts and conversations, we’ve identified that there are some regulations locally that could be more business friendly, and even at the state level that we help advocate for changes to laws, codes and regulations. One thing I always hear when doing Business Expansion and Retention visits, is the challenge of regulations. Zoning always comes up in discussions around expansions or locations. I serve on the Nebraska Economic Developers Association legislative committee, and we are activity involved with the Nebraska Housing Association as well as First Five Nebraska, and keep an eye on state-wide legislation. Because of all of this, I spend time advocating for policy and regulation changes at multiple levels, and I’d like to share a successful shift recently made at the local level.
Earlier this year, an entrepreneur approached me because he wanted to start a side hustle, or an in-home business. He works full-time, and is seeing the potential of a hobby he loves turning into something more. This is someone who does believe very much in following rules and regulations, and he checked the City of York’s website to see if he could do what he wanted to do in his single-family home in York. Turns out, he couldn’t and he reached out to me. When I read the codes, I felt they were very restrictive, and to be honest, were not being followed/enforce based on my knowledge. Technically, anyone running a side hustle, such as making signs or even a network marketing company (think Pampered Chef), were running their business illegally. Even your garage could only be used for parking your car, not making product. This was just a result of a code not being updated to keep up with changing times, and 2020 and 2021 showed all time record highs for business start-ups. Even though we want more entrepreneurs growing our county, I ethically couldn’t tell him to proceed, and that is what I shared with the city. I reached out to Dr. Sue Crawford, City Administrator of the City of York, and asked if this section could be revised, and that started the research on friendly, open codes. I then went to the city council and made the request for the codes to be amended. The council was very supportive of the change, and the process started. The city went through the process with the ordinance committee, planning and zoning committee, and back to the City Council. I was thrilled to call this entrepreneur earlier this month to tell him the codes have been revised, and to get moving on his project. I would like to thank the Dr. Crawford, city staff and officials who took the time to revise this code to make the city of York more welcoming to entrepreneurs.
I wanted to share this example, because sometimes what YCDC does, is not connected to a large project, however it will have a large impact over time. These small steps are as critical to economic growth as the larger steps that bring in the press.
For more information, please read the article in the York News-Times that covers the changes that were made.