NLC's City Showcase Programs Set a High Bar for Economic Development

By Burtseva, Sandi | Nation's Cities Weekly, February 6, 2012 | Go to article overview

NLC's City Showcase Programs Set a High Bar for Economic Development


Burtseva, Sandi, Nation's Cities Weekly


The City Showcase exhibition, held annually at NLC's Congress of Cities and Exposition, shines a spotlight on some of the most successful and creative programs from cities and towns across the country.

Winning programs are selected for their innovative practices. They represent a wide range of geographical locations, city sizes and topic areas. In 2011, the 24 City Showcase participants highlighted the Congress of Cities' concurrent conference topics: infrastructure, green cities, economic development and your city's families. Below are the six economic development programs featured in the 2011 City Showcase. [See the January 30, 2012 issue of Nation's Cities Weekly to read about of the six infrastructure programs featured in the 2011 showcase.]

Virginia Beach, Va.: Green Destination--Virginia Beach, Va.

The Virginia Beach tourism and hospitality industry has committed to decreasing its environmental footprint and providing environmentally friendly alternatives for visitors. As a result, the city has been named the commonwealth's first "Virginia Green Destination." This designation indicates that Virginia Beach has more than 100 businesses that are certified "Virginia Green" by the state.

The program provides a global approach to incorporating sustainability efforts of the Convention and Visitors Bureau--which includes the Virginia Beach Convention Center and Visitor Information Center, the Virginia Beach hospitality industry and the City of Virginia Beach.

Both hospitality industry patrons--33 percent of whom indicated that environmentally friendly hotels and resorts are important to them in a 2010 TripAdvisor survey--and local meeting planners spurred the city towards environmentalism. Partnering with the state, Virginia Beach acted as a catalyst to expand the Virginia Green program from hotels to other establishments, such as restaurants and attractions. The city boasts the first green restaurant and the first green attraction--the Virginia Beach aquarium. Other steps included a shift to hybrid buses and recycling on the city's oceanfront. The current pilot project is encouraging composting in local restaurants.

Virginia Beach has also brought its Convention Center to the highest sustainability standard--LEED Gold. LEED's multi-faceted program challenged the city to improve in many different areas--from indoor air quality, to cleaning chemicals, to environmentally friendly paints and solvents. These efforts have paid off for the center. "We've trimmed about $200,000 a year off our energy bill. And ... $200,000 off an $800,000 power bill means [we] can save some jobs. And that's exactly what we did," said the convention center's General Manager Courtney Dyer.

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City of Boulder's Flexible Rebate Incentive--Boulder, Colo.

Boulder, Colo.'s flexible rebate incentive program allows companies to apply for financial incentives when they verify compliance with community and environmental sustainability guidelines. These guidelines were key to the city council adopting Boulder's first business incentive program in October 2006. The city features the only rebate incentive in the country tied to compliance with broad community sustainability policies.

The program focuses on incentivizing primary employers, which are defined as companies that have more than 50 percent of their revenue coming in to the Boulder county area. "We see this as a way to invest in companies that are investing in Boulder," said Boulder Economic Vitality Coordinator Liz Hanson.

The city's sustainability goals have environmental, economic and social aspects, sometimes called the "triple bottom line." The application form begins by asking companies what type of community, environmental and social guidelines they can commit to meeting. By providing a variety of options, Boulder has ensured the program's success, Hanson explained.

Once a company applies, the city identifies what kinds of use taxes, sales taxes and permit fees the company will be paying into the city over the following three years, dispensing with the need for annual applications. …

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NLC's City Showcase Programs Set a High Bar for Economic Development
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