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The Value of Development Service Centers

Economic growth and commercial vitality in virtually every city depends on the development community’s ability to work through regulations and procedures as painlessly as possible. Over the past decade the formation of centralized development services in some cities has transformed the often adversarial relationship between city departments and developers. Cities such as Henderson, Nevada have led the way with extraordinary service centers that work in harmony with the development community to streamline and professionalize every aspect of the city/developer interface.

Lincoln’s Progress

As an example of recent progress, in 2008 Lincoln NE Mayor Chris Beutler announced the formation of a development service center (DSC) that would provide “a profound change in the way we do business at City Hall.” With guidance from DSC Coordinator Mike Lang and public works director Greg MacLean, the Mayor has championed the formation of a DSC that will be critical to Lincoln’s development future. Just 2 weeks ago, the Public Building Commission offered its support for space to house staff from Urban Development, Planning, Public Works and Utilities and the Building and Safety Departments. With dedicated employees from each entity, consolidation is well underway

Why is this essential? Very simply, in our community surveys, one of the most obvious areas of negative comment is from developers who cite issues when dealing with municipal agencies, especially when several agencies are accountable for various elements of permitting, regulation and oversight pertaining to commercial or residential development. In many communities this is a source of major conflict and is often referenced as a barrier to economic development. The answer has always been clear – put all the key players in one central location, get them to collaborate, and create a total commitment to service. A single point of contact with ample expertise and the ability to handle any issue allows developers and citizen remodelers to move quickly through the permitting and review process. The days of balkanized public agency fiefdoms must come to an end.

Cities like Lincoln and Henderson are demonstrating how economic development can be facilitated through Mayoral leadership and prudent management of existing programs. With economic constraints predicted to continue in most communities, government agencies must find ways to consolidate and collaborate. Done well, costs will decrease or be moderated, service levels will increase, and overall efficiency/ productivity will grow.

The Development Services Center concept is one of the most important trends occurring in city government, yet far too few have made the transition. For those interested in the process and approach, give Henderson, NV or Lincoln, NE a call. West DesMoines, IA and Phoenix, AZ also have good Development Centers from what I understand. Are you Prepared For Challenge?


With over three decades working in and with federal, state and local government, John Luthy understands public agencies.  Known for his real world, straight talking style, he is a leading futurist specializing in city, county, state, and federal long-range thinking and planning. An innovative and dynamic presenter, John frequently speaks and consults on how to prepare public organizations and communities for emerging challenges. He holds both the MPH and MPA degrees as well as a doctorate in education.

One Response

  1. pXZdq0 That’s really thkniing out of the box. Thanks!

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