Grow Spencer Commission prepares draft

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Members of the Grow Spencer Commission and city officials met with David Toyer, of Toyer Strategic Consulting, on Tuesday to discuss and refine an economic development strategic work plan draft which will be presented to Spencer City Council members at a future Committee of the Whole meeting. While some elements of the draft were not yet finalized, the first element of the draft discussed by the group were the plan’s goals.

“The two goals for this group and what the city could work on would be the creation of 300 high quality jobs over the next five years and the creation of 250 homes over the next five years,” Toyer said.

Toyer said the draft defines “high quality jobs” through the state’s definition, being a starting wage of $17.31 and growing to 120 percent to $21.36 an hour in three years. The draft’s housing data section states in order to build 254 homes to accommodate a population growth of 5 percent — or 558 people — 63 housing units would need to be built each year in a four-year span.

“The workforce housing thing is probably a little bit difficult to specify with a price range,” Toyer said. “You want to create some housing that folks moving to the community would be interested in purchasing, but also some of the new housing being created would be for moving up and multifamily as well. You’re probably looking at not one type of housing you’re trying to support. You’d be trying to encourage a diversity of housing to keep the market moving in a lot of different directions to be able to offer as many folks opportunities to enter your housing market as can be.”

Commission member Jan Myers said a question which would be asked is “How do you get the jobs and what jobs?” Toyer said in implementing the draft’s suggestions, the city working alongside the various Spencer economic development entities would be key going forward.

“I think one of the things that’s a challenge, ... you’re adopting goals and a vision and a work plan for the city,” Toyer said. “And yet, you’re not the only player in the economic development sphere out there. You’ve got the chamber, the downtown, the corridor, CIF, jobs trust, you’ve got a lot of entities that play a role in this. There is a process going forward, once you adopt your plan, to ensure your plan is going to fit and be complimentary with those other organization’s other plans. Not to say it in a negative way, but the city does make contributions to all those groups, you have some level of leverage to say ‘Hey these are some things we see are a priority.’”

While “industry targets” suggestions will be further detailed as the draft is completed in the future, in the draft Toyer suggests and outlines a number of industry targets for the city to pursue. These include advanced manufacturing, food manufacturing, transportation and warehousing and entrepreneurial technology and science related business.

The commission also discussed recommended changes to the city’s zoning codes which were not yet included in the draft, some of which include allowing flexibility in lot sizes for residential districts, defining duplexes, micro distilleries and aquaculture; adopt regulations for cell phone towers and adding additional uses for food processing. Other topics included establishing incentives for economic development and how to move forward with the city’s riverfront plan, such as sending out a request for proposal to real estate development firms with riverfront experience “to evaluate the city’s vision and propose projects.”

A draft of the commission’s report with additional information is expected to be presented and discussed at the next Spencer Committee of the Whole meeting.

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