February 05, 2014 - Recent discussions about reviving Crestwood's Economic Development Commission spurred Mayor Jeff Schlink to announce the possibility of forming a business-first advisory committee within the city.
Resident Mike Balles brought the issue to the Board of Aldermen's attention at its Jan. 14 meeting when he noted the economic development strategy created by the city's Economic Development Commission has not been updated since 2005.
Schlink told the board at its meeting last week the city's goal is to "engage with the business community."
"The primary role of the group would be to establish what we don't have today and that's a business group," Schlink said. "I think the Crestwood-Sunset Hills Chamber of Commerce is the most likely group to engage in this process. They have the membership.
"It may not be 100 percent of the businesses, but they have a strong membership and they do a lot of activities with each other, but they don't spend a lot of time with us and we don't spend a lot of time with them."
Steve Boggeman, executive director of the Crestwood-Sunset Hills Area Chamber of Commerce, told the Call that Schlink contacted him within the last week about the possibility of forming a business group, and he was "all over" the concept because he has had the same idea in mind.
"I think (a business advisory group) would help to make the city a more desirable place for businesses to move to," he said. "If it's easy to move in and we sort through any of the issues that businesses have with current policies and then get them (city officials) to possibly modify the policies to where they're more suited for a harmonious relationship between the city and the businesses."
Boggeman hopes a group of this nature will "better inform nonchamber businesses" about the chamber's mission.
"The stronger we are, the better it is for the city, residents, government and business," he said. "The stronger we are the better it is for everybody."
The chamber, according to Schlink, could serve as a "conduit" to reach as many businesses as possible, noting the city has worked to engage residents but has "failed to do a good job of engaging" businesses.
"I think that this is something that could expand even more, within reason," Schlink said.
As such, the mayor suggested working with a local real-estate association to show available homes in Crestwood and Lindbergh Schools.
"Those types of things just help draw people to the community and try to emphasize the community more, not only from a commercial perspective but from a residential perspective as well," he said.
Such a committee, according to Schlink, would help businesses, which "pay a significant amount of taxes to our area," have a voice.
"They're not a voting body. They're no different than anyother advisory committee, and certainly the expectation would have to be set that they're not setting policy for us, they're just making recommendations that they see that would be beneficial for businesses," Schlink said, "and obviously anything that would come out of this group or any advisory board would always be reviewed by this board ..."
The group could consist of a representative from the Chamber of Commerce, "invited businesspeople" and "key landowners." Creation of the advisory commission could coincide with the city's website redevelopment, according to Schlink, by including "Business Wizard" and posting required paperwork and forms online.
"It would really walk you through the process (of opening a business in the city) instead of just giving you a checklist and then telling you go to here ...," he said. "While it sounds minor, I think that whatever we can do to be easy to do business with ... helps us out quite a bit."
Ward 2 Alderman Mary Stadter told the board she believes the commission is a "great idea" and the city needs to engage the business community.
"I love getting the technology engaged," she said. "Since we're building a new website, we really need to be expecting state-of-the-art for these things that right now are in the stone ages. You shouldn't have to drive to city hall to get a form to fill out. We should have links to the county economic division and places they can find funding and what not, so I'm absolutely behind all that."
No decision was made last week by aldermen about the formation of a business-first advisory commission.