WKU Public Radio News Staff
Mon January 14, 2013
Owensboro Mayor: City Needs to Remove Barriers to Business
A western Kentucky city plans to have a panel determine whether it can make things easier for businesses looking to locate or expand in the area.
Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne told the Messenger-Inquirer that he's heard several complaints from the business community and this is an attempt to see if there are problems and, if so, how best to address them.
"Ever since I've been mayor, I've heard complaints about problems with planning and zoning and other requirements, or difficulties dealing with City Hall, and given the amount of business activity we have and what I anticipate will occur, we want to make sure it is as easy as possible to do business," Payne said recently in calling for the appointment of a Commission on Business Development.
He said the group would talk to developers and business owners to see what kind of problems they have when they attempt to open or expand a business and determine whether issues really exist.
"That's what I have difficulty with," he said. "Are they real — or perceived? I don't know. But there have been enough complaints to justify this commission. Maybe nothing will come of it. But it never hurts to kick the tires on things. If we are really serious about ratcheting up economic development, we need to do this. It's really an inquiry."
Owensboro Metropolitan Planning Commission director Gary Noffsinger says the agency, which administers local planning and zoning regulations, has worked to remove impediments to developers and streamline the process for businesses to locate or expand.
"As an example, we do all nonresidential plan reviews at the local level, instead of having to go to the state, and we do the heating, ventilation and air conditioning program at the local level, not at the state level," he said.
However, he said he's interested to see what the panel will find.
"I welcome the opportunity to find out if problems exist, or if we can streamline even more," he said. "My main concern is, I don't want to be left out. I want a seat at the table."
Chamber of Commerce Chairman Gavin Roberts, said he the mayor's initiative is appreciated.
"Any emphasis that can be put on business is welcome," he said. "Running a business in today's environment is tough. Businesses are looking at trimming and cutting."
He said he doesn't support getting rid of regulations.
"We don't want a free-for-all," he said. "We do love our community. At the same time, there are areas where we can improve that are overreaching in certain areas. I think the commission will help with that."
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