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Springettsbury supervisor: Community key to economic development
A Springettsbury official says the time is ripe to expand the township development authority's "conduit financing" capacity as well as create an economic development steering committee.
At the crux of Supervisor Charles Wurster’s ideas are community relationships: expanding volunteer opportunities as a way to take a pulse on immediate or long-term economic changes, and assisting local businesses and nonprofits with their needs, he said.
Township Manager Ben Marchant said conduit financing poses “no risk” to taxpayers.
“Conduit financing means that we are just the pass through to allow a bank to make a tax-free loan to a nonprofit organization,” he said. “No tax dollars used, none at risk. If the nonprofit defaults, it’s the bank at risk, not the township.”
Wurster said conduit financing ought to be expanded to nonprofit organizations. The authority already assists manufacturing operations, he said.
The next step would be for supervisors to approve changes to the authority's bylaws to include nonprofits and create a fee schedule, he said.
Wurster described the funding method as a way to “make economic activity happen.”
“If we get lucky,” the credit officer at York Traditions Bank said, “it could be five (applications) a year. It depends on the actual environment out there.”
The win-win, he explained, is “so long as the loans are outstanding,” the township would collect on annual renewal fees. And nonprofits, he continued, could finance at a lower interest rate as supported by the Springettsbury Township Development Authority.
In order to manage the authority, which approves conduit financing, Wurster proposed, “longer term, it may make more sense to get some experienced township residents to serve in a volunteer capacity.”
He recommended "lenders, real estate agents or others with business backgrounds," who could oversee the financing applications.
The township could potentially spend money on an audit to track tax-exempt loans, additional staff time and solicitor expenses, he said.
All board supervisors sit on the development authority board, Wurster said. A meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, June 14, to discuss revising the authority’s bylaws, and other matters pertaining to conduit financing, Marchant said.
The creation of a new economic development steering committee also has not happened yet, Marchant added.
Wurster said a township steering committee would be an “amped up” Springettsbury business association, comprised of private and public sector volunteer residents aimed at being a “committee of community members that connect staff to what’s really going on.”
“Some of the goals that I identified are to connect the township leadership with economic development opportunities through connections with the business community, commercial Realtors and economic development agencies,” Wurster said.
Supervisor Blanda Nace agreed a steering committee would supply a needed data point of the township's actual business vacancy rate.
“We know we just lost Sears and Bon-Ton, so obviously there’s some big gaps,” he said.
A large part of economic development, he added, is local government getting "out of the way” of the private sector.
Board Chairman Mark Swomley said he would like steering committee members to create a list of township amenities.
Swomley said showing off the highlights of Springettsbury could help to influence "whether developers or businesses" move to the township.