COUNTY NEWS: Group offers help to prospective business owners

The Brown County Redevelopment Commission is interested in being a first stop for people wishing to open a business in Brown County.

RDC member Jim Kemp presented the group’s idea to the Brown County Area Plan Commission Dec. 19.

It came from Kemp and other redevelopment commission members sitting in on the November APC meeting. Much of that meeting was consumed by a debate about rezoning a private residence to allow the owners to open a restaurant.

“My takeaway was that both sides were ill-prepared to present their case,” Kemp said. “I sat and thought to myself that the county would have been better served if the process was changed.”

His proposal is that prospective business owners first go to the redevelopment commission, share their plans with that group, and commission members would perform “the required due diligence” before it was taken to the APC.

The redevelopment commission is currently made up of five volunteers, most of whom have corporate business experience. Kemp said that some prospective business owners may be great at doing the central part of their jobs — like baking cakes, if they’re thinking of opening a bakery — but they might not know much about the business end of running a business.

Kemp proposed that if the redevelopment commission was the first board those entrepreneurs spoke to, perhaps the success rate of startup businesses and their compliance with local government departments’ rules would be improved, and the “local community conflict” and the APC’s burden would be reduced.

The review would not be to judge the merits of the business, but to look at it from many perspectives, including those which may cause issues for homeowners surrounding it, he said. He’d like for the review to take place in an open meeting, “to foster that input and try to negotiate a win-win.”

Kemp said that the Brown County Redevelopment Commission’s role hasn’t been well-defined. He’d like to see greater collaboration among the RDC, the APC, the county council, the county commissioners and other boards and departments, and this could be one way to forge that sort of relationship, he said.

Details of how this process would work, such as whether or not an RDC review of a business’ plans would be optional or mandatory, haven’t been determined.

Most APC members bobbed their heads when asked if they were in support of exploring the idea further.

Whether or not it will actually play out depends on several factors, the first being whether the people who are currently on the RDC get reappointed or other people with the necessary skill set take their places, Kemp said.

“Clearly, this idea is just that: an idea. However, if the APC is open to developing a collaborative relationship with the approval of the commissioners and council, then I believe the two commissions would be well served by exploring how they can leverage their resources to better serve the community,” he said.

“This whole concept comes down to relationships and trust,” he added.