WF gets a bad rap on unfriendly attitude toward business
The perception that Wichita Falls is unfriendly toward business and development is undeserved, according to Assistant City Manager Paul Menzies.
“It’s a completely false perception,” Menzies said.
Menzies briefed City Council members Tuesday during a regular city council meeting about the city’s reputation.
“This is the worst city to build and develop and it always has been. People have told me it’s been this way for 40 years,” Menzies said, concerning assumptions about the city. “Everybody in this room has heard this. Wichita Falls isn’t business friendly.”
Wichita Falls is responsive to new development
He said Wichita Falls actually does better than most cities when it comes to working with businesses and developers. Other cities Menzies surveyed took an average of three weeks to respond to new commercial building plans while Wichita Falls takes an average of four business days. For residential projects it’s just one to two business days. Inspections are quicker.
“We pride ourselves on same-day inspections,” Menzies said.
He said while many cities expect “strict compliance” with regulations, Wichita Falls expects “general compliance.”
“Our reputation of being the worst in the state – I will argue today we are one of the best in the state,” Menzies said.
No one seems to know how reputation began
He quizzed small business owners about where the negative reputation comes from.
“Nobody knows. They just know that it’s out there,” he said.
He said some attributed it to resentment of city regulations.
“There’s a limited local government ideal here,” he said. “Folks just want to do what they want to do.”
Other factors he heard involved misunderstandings by owners.
Confusion of city vs. federal, state regulations
“A lot of inexperienced local entrepreneurs don’t realize a lot of city requirements they complain about are actually federal, state and local laws,” Menzies said.
He said because of low per capita income here, chronic undercapitalization is also a problem. Local residents embark on a business venture with less money than their counterparts in other cities. He said often people buy a building and get loans before they ever engage the city about the expense of requirements. He used an example of the downtown area where business owners discover their property doesn’t appraise for as much as the amount they had to invest in it.
“The project is upside down,” he said.
Another problem that interferes with development is a lag time by local design professionals and contractors who often cannot begin new projects for several months.
And, “Some people just want to keep the negative perception of the city going.”
Turning that frown upside down
City Manager Darren Leiker asked council members to help turn the city’s negative perception around.
“If we can do something better, let us know,” he said.
He said new Chamber of Commerce President Ron Kitchens told him the negative perception and the perpetuation of it does more to hold Wichita Falls back than anything else.
“As part of our effort to improve the economy and grow the city we have to get past that,” he said.