May 21, 2024

To: Flagstaff Mayor, City Council, Economic Investment Director

From: Friends of Flagstaff’s Future (F3)

Subject: Comments on Final Economic Development Strategy 2024-29 (Agenda Item 8B, May 21)

F3 appreciates the city’s Community Investment program outreach to our organization for input into the development of the Economic Development Strategy (Strategy). We especially appreciate our rich conversation with Dave McIntire and his openness to our concerns and recommendations. 

This Strategy was designed to address gaps and opportunities. F3 believes there are four gaps that exist and need to be addressed more fully in the plan:

  1. Child Care: National reports link the lack of affordable child care to a negative impact on economic development. F3 believes this is the place for the city to target this topic. The Strategy includes a SWOT analysis that identifies the lack of “accessibility to childcare” as a threat. Strategic follow-through is included later in the document focused on convening groups to discuss the topic.

    While the argument may be made that addressing child care belongs in the Workforce Development Plan (in progress), we believe child care is primarily an economic issue. Child care costs are rising rapidly and many companies recognize child care as an important issue to their employees. F3 suggests including within the Strategy a recommendation for the city to provide an incentive to companies that move to Flagstaff and provide child care vouchers as a benefit to their employees who are parents. See “Seven Facts About the Economics of Childcare” released by the White House last month. 
  2. The Food Processing Sector (p.25) identifies “local/sustainable food” as a proposed emerging industry. F3 is pleased to see this included. However, we want to bring the city’s attention to the need to develop a local food economy within the community. F3 recommends that the city’s Strategy include the permitting of shared community kitchens. The need for such kitchens has been discussed within a segment of the community for many years. Community kitchens enable entrepreneurship in food manufacturing and support small business start-ups. Inclusion in the Strategy’s recommendations would indicate an understanding of existing needs that support new small businesses and entrepreneurs.
  3. The current development Strategy approaches economic development through the supply side of the equation. It is essential that this approach be complemented by a study of the demand side of the economic equation, asking not only “How can we bring in new businesses?” but also “How can we encourage economic development within the community that addresses the current needs of the community?” For example, we clearly are in need of elder care opportunities and there are likely people in our community who have the capacity to develop such opportunities.   F3 urges the inclusion of a recommendation in the Strategy for the city’s Community Investment program to undertake a study that emphasizes the demand side of the economic equation.

F3 urges the City in the future to take up conversations with the community about the following economic development topics:

  • The development of an incentive program for incoming businesses that agree to provide a level of housing down payment or monthly rental assistance and/or plan to build housing for their employees would communicate the importance of attainable housing to the community.
  • Education about locally-based worker cooperatives and how to set them up. Locally-based worker cooperatives are known to benefit community vitality and stability while modeling equitable economic practices. Cooperatives enable greater community ownership of businesses and, as a result, an increase in local spending of those profits within the community. Information about worker cooperatives could be included within the city’s portfolio of assistance provided to Flagstaff businesses.
  • Further discussion among organizations and groups around developing a local/sustainable food system. Outcomes of the city’s ongoing three-year “Assessing & Growing a Sustainable Community Food System” Project will assist in identifying additional economic strategies for later inclusion within the strategic document.

F3 will be happy to assist the city in developing these community conversations.

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