There’s an old wives tale that says the prettiest girl at the dance is the one that never gets asked out. Most guys are too afraid/scared/intimidated to approach her. The ones that do can often be surprised when she says yes. Thus explaining the Ric Ocasek and Paulina Porizkova connection.
Small city governments are the same way. They can seem unapproachable but when you finally try they can be surprisingly open about their city needs and how they are willing to help you. A smart mayor in a small city can be an invaluable resource for you as an investor.
Small cities also usually have discretionary budgets both within the city and within their Economic Development Corporation. Their EDC is chartered to fund the city’s growth and improve the city’s landscape/services, etc.
If the mayor is the dealer than the EDC is the bank. The mayor sets up deals (Jerry McGuire) and passes it through the EDC.
So what does this have to do with green real estate?
Put simply, there is money, grants, tax incentives, loans available to you at the small city level that may not be available in bigger cities. Additionally the process to get approval/funding is usually quicker and easier. If you are the first investor looking to ‘green’ a property in a small town, you will almost always have a better shot at financial assistance than if there is an established green investor in the marketplace.
Based on a recent meeting in Texas, here’s what to do:
1. Research the mayor (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) and call and set a lunch appointment.
2. Prior to the appointment find out how the city makes money. Sales tax, property tax, etc.
3. Find the mayor’s hot buttons and see where they are in their term.
4. Compare the city to similar cities in the area. Are they thriving or just surviving?
During the meeting with the mayor find out:
1. The annual income for the city.
2. The process of how the EDC and mayors office works to distribute funds.
3. What are their current green ordinances (if any).
Also, be prepared to give the mayor an overview of your plan. Share exactly how your projects will mean additional jobs, sales tax, revenue, etc. to the city. Highlight what it will mean if the city adopted green and had the first green homes in the county. Ask the mayor what it would mean to him or her.
The final step is to ask the mayor to tell you how you should proceed and what the next steps for you should be. When you’re done with the lunch, shake the mayor’s hand and get to work.
In a recent (this week) lunch with a mayor of a small town outside of Austin a few things were clear in the first 20 minutes:
1. The mayor was concerned most about increasing sales tax revenue.
2. The mayor was hot for solar but didn’t like wind projects.
3. The mayor felt that he and the EDC would be interested in the right project that had high visibility for the town. He actually said in a Texas drawl, “I won’t pay for a solar panel on an outhouse, son”.
4. The mayor disclosed both their annual budget and process for awarding money.
5. He suggested the next steps to take and then followed up later in the day with more info.
So the key point here is that although the mayor knew nothing about green he did see the value it would bring to his town. He was also willing to test it out on one project and willing to spearhead the effort with other city officials.
Great things can happen when you get buy-in from a mayor. You go from being an outsider to being a partner with the city. That can mean increased profits, lower expenses, new opportunities for your business, etc. Green is more popular than ever. You can help the small town mayor in ways you may never have realized.