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AUSTIN-The city of Austin is beginning a process to review its role in economic development. The city council last week accepted recommendations to create committees to review economic incentives, small business and the cultural elements that make Austin Austin.

The action comes out of a task force headed by council members Will Wynn and Betty Dunkerley. The city is taking a step back to look at the city’s current economic situation and where to go from here.

Wynn says the city has good reason to play a role in economic development. Creating jobs and economic growth is the only way the city “can pay for health care, public safety and emergency services, for parks, libraries, for roads, for all the different things we do as a city,” he said in presenting recommendations to the city council.

The committees will gather members from throughout the community to review existing provisions and suggests changes and improvements. Reports are to be made to the city council next spring.

For small businesses, a committee will review development regulations for those who want to expand by adding or remodeling space. Dunkerley says small businesses don’t have the resources to deal with the city’s sometimes restrictive–and expensive–redevelopment process. Many of those regulations protect the environment, she says, “but we need to figure out how to be more business friendly, particularly for those small and local businesses.”

In terms of economic incentives, that committee will ask questions concerning the trade-offs between what companies get and what the city gets.

The cultural committee will determine how the city can support the city’s signature culture and continue to support the growth of creative jobs. It will inventory the community’s social and cultural assets and evaluate existing city programs to increase their impact.

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