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Wade Norwood: On the economy, stupid Q&A 

City: What would you do differently from the Johnson administration when it comes to economic development?

Norwood: I would look to build greater synergies between economic development and community development. I would create a city development department where those functions are merged. Housing and neighborhood commercial development go hand in hand; they should not be separated. I would look to have more effort going into business incubators to help develop small businesses. Small businesses are the job creators and the engine of our local economy.

The city's economic development department takes a lot of heat for being more about regulation than development. We've heard several times that it can think of lots of reasons not to do something. Do you believe those criticisms are fair? If so, what would you do about them?

I think it's absolutely critical that we understand that in this city, business interests are already operating at a disadvantage. We have to make sure that our governmental processes, our investment tools, are really designed to help overcome that disadvantage and help become more development friendly and more development ready.

I worked very hard to assist in the rewriting of our zoning ordinance to make sure that our zoning code was more development friendly. I believe that all our regulatory processes could do with a similar review and, where appropriate, with a retooling.

Would you support city tax incentives to spur business development?

I do support city tax incentives to spur business development. I'm just very clear that those incentives have to and should be tied to the actual retention or creation of a job.

Would you spend city money on preparing development-ready sites, dealing with environmental problems to get them ready?

Yes.

What, if anything, should be changed in the relationship between the various economic-development bodies throughout Monroe County?

I believe that the Greater Rochester Enterprise should be the main outreach organization for business contact and business promotion. I'm absolutely a believer that there should be a specific cooperation agreement between the city, the county, and GRE so there are no longer gaps through which business investors can fall when they're trying to grow jobs in our local community.

What would you do to provide jobs for the unemployed?

I think that there is a great opportunity for us to do a better job of job-matching for people who are underemployed than we are currently doing. I believe that a great way to do that is through this program of economic circulation that I've been pushing; we should be looking to make sure that local public works projects are opportunities for us to create local jobs for local people.

I believe that by pushing the unbundling of city contracts to make it easier for more small businesses to bid on city contracts we will help create job opportunities. I think that we really need to embrace the opportunity of our not-for-profit employers. Whether they're large employers like the University of Rochester or the Strong Museum, or whether they are small employers like the Baden Street Settlement, our not-for-profit sector remains vibrant and remains a place where we can create jobs for semi-skilled or for underemployed persons. Look at this great expansion of the Strong Museum; there is an opportunity where we can grow jobs through creating a tourism destination economy.

We need to be partnered with the hospitality industry. I think there are opportunities where it comes to new technologies. Fuel cell technology is very exciting. How do we as a local community embrace this form of manufacturing technology to grow jobs? It's not going to be one magic bullet that does it, but if we can embrace what's going on with our non-profit community, if we can grow jobs through new technology, and if we can use the public works contracting dollar, we can create opportunities for people that do not currently exist.

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