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December 4, 2013

Troy ‘mines’ its own business, says study

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

Troy got top marks for spurring entrepreneurial growth and economic development in a recent ranking by the University of Michigan – Dearborn’s Center for Innovative Research. Troy is home to some 6,000 businesses that employ about 125,000 people.

Through data compiled by participating communities and public records, the U-M–Dearborn’s iLabs eCities program examines factors that contribute to entrepreneurship, economic development and job growth.

The city of Troy was rated as a five-star community, along with 51 other communities across the state.

Local five-star communities include Madison Heights, Farmington Hills, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Southfield, Auburn Hills and Sterling Heights.

Troy City Manager Brian Kischnick said the recognition reaffirms the city’s commitment to providing fast, fair and predictable services to the growing business community.

A panel of entrepreneurs selected by UM–Dearborn’s iLabs eCities team reviews the municipalities’ comments and data compiled, which includes the number of building permits issued and their value, to identify top performing cities.

“Thanks to the teamwork we have here between all departments, the Planning Department, Code Enforcement and SafeBuilt, which operates the city’s Building Department, that’s what makes Troy a premiere address for business, retail and commerce,” said Cindy Stewart, community affairs director for the city of Troy.

She noted that SafeBuilt has a 98 percent customer satisfaction rating, and processes requests for building permits for commercial projects in 10 working days and residential projects in five working days.

Also, a new zoning ordinance, which the Troy City Council adopted in April of 2011, set forth strategies to encourage mixed zoning uses to repurpose under-used industrial properties. The sustainable development option — which allows the developer leeway on density and other issues in return for the developer offering to include green features, such as rain barrels, swales, geothermal heating and cooling, electric car charging stations and solar lighting — and an economic gardening approach are other tools the city uses to spur growth and economic development.

“The economic gardening approach leverages partnerships to provide the information, infrastructure and connections necessary to address business needs and help them grow,” said Glenn Lapin, economic development specialist for Troy.

That approach provides help to all growing Troy companies, particularly those considered second stage — those with between six and 99 employees in business development, market analysis, geographic information system data and human resources development — find talented employees, as well as helping with site selection.

The eCities research project began in 2007. The research surveyed 102 communities from 37 counties in Michigan, which had more than $1.8 billion in commercial construction in 2012. Troy has been recognized in the study each year.

“This annual project makes the university part of the local leaders’ toolkit for economic development. We are tackling a statewide concern and analyzing the parts that local leaders can directly impact,” said Tim Davis, iLabs director, in a prepared statement.  “Participating communities can identify best practices and methods they can implement to aid in job growth, economic diversification and development of entrepreneurs.”

The annual research project uses data supplied by the participants, as well as other public records, to assemble a six-factor, 32-item index of entrepreneurial activity, looking at such factors as clustering, incentives, growth, policies, community and education. The study focuses on entrepreneurship because of its importance to expansion and diversification of Michigan’s regional economies and the impact small businesses have on job creation. To date, 182 communities across Michigan have participated in the study.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.