At the City Council retreat on Thursday, Feb. 2, a discussion on priorities morphed into a meaningful discussion of the future of economic development in Greensboro.

The task was for each member of the City Council to take 10 minutes to talk about their two top priorities.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan started off and listed public safety and housing, particularly housing for the homeless population, as the two top priorities.

Every on the council nodded in agreement, so councilmembers began talking about other priorities.

Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann said, “We need to look at streamlining the whole government process. It’s too cumbersome and too siloed.  And it’s frustrating to people who want to build, whether it is residential or commercial.”

Hoffmann added that other cities were making strides in streamlining zoning and planning and said, “We know we’ve got to build more densely than we have in the past.”

She said, “We’ve got to change the way we do business.”  And she said there were good models on how to do it, such as Raleigh.

Councilmember Tammi Thurm noted that the city was extremely successful in how it approached and completed the Pallet Home project in record time.  She said, “We need to look at having that same approach for our businesses, rather than taking weeks and months.  It’s really important to support folks.”

Thurm said that unlike the Pallet Home project, which was approved and built quickly, when someone wants to open a new business, “the process seems to break down and take way too long.”

Councilmember Zack Matheny, who is participating in the retreat via Zoom, said that as someone who runs an economic development group that partners with the city, Downtown Greensboro Inc. (DGI), he knew how the city treated those involved in economic development.  Matheny said there was a tremendous breakdown in communication between DGI and the city on downtown projects.

Matheny said, “The city staff has to have the same goals as the City Council.”

He said, “We are here to represent the taxpayers and we’ve got to treat our taxpayers with a little more respect.”