Municipal decision-makers have a lot of power to influence regional vitality and the operating conditions and competitive strength of companies.
“Local companies should be heard in increasing local vitality. Important decisions regarding both the commercial companies and residents of a municipality are related to zoning, public contracts, development of city centres and the companies’ operating conditions, co-operation between educational institutions and companies and safe environments,” says Mari Kiviniemi, Managing Director of the Finnish Commerce Federation.
Keeping stores and city centres lively
During the coronavirus pandemic, the sales of daily consumer goods, home electronics, hardware and interior design goods has grown rapidly, but many specialty goods stores, especially brick-and-mortar stores and companies in city centres, have been going through rough times. It is important that local decisions, such as the rate of real estate tax and other municipal fees, do not weaken the competitive strength and operating conditions of commercial companies in the area.
The vitality of city and municipal centres is supported by good accessibility with all types of transportation. In addition to functional public transportation, the centres must be accessible by passenger cars, and ensuring an adequate number of affordable parking spaces is important for entrepreneurs active in city and municipal centres. Municipalities play a key role as enablers of activities and events in centres—for example, by ensuring as smooth permit processes as possible.
“Development of city and municipal centres requires the courage to experiment, specialise and establish a distinctive profile. Attractiveness and a wide variety of services increase the vitality of centres. It is important to listen to the ideas and needs of brick-and-mortar stores,” says Simo Hiilamo, Director, Public Policy and Advocacy at the Finnish Commerce Federation.
Agile zoning supports investments
The zoning of municipalities must be a quick and agile process in order for commercial companies to develop and bring their services close to the residents of the municipality. Municipalities should make it possible to make new investments in the area and listen to the needs and views of companies, as the investor always has the best understanding of their own operations and the requirements of profitable business.
Public contracts of cities and municipalities have a remarkable impact on the commerce sector and local vitality in general. These contracts support entrepreneurship, employment and regional development. They also allow the residents of the municipality to access affordable and high-quality services and goods.
“Through climate-resilient, energy-efficient contracts, municipalities can also save on their operating costs and support the accomplishment of their carbon neutrality goals. Low-carbon criteria must be taken into account more closely in the criteria of competitive tendering processes,” says Hiilamo.
High-quality co-operation supports expertise and the local environment
The constant development of expertise is important in developing local attractiveness at all levels of education. Investments are particularly in demand in close co-operation between secondary education institutions and companies, which links working life closely to the activities of the institutions. This prepares the students better for working life.
“Municipal decision-makers can support the co-operation, for example, in their public duties in the educational institutions owned by municipalities,” says Hiilamo.
Companies in the commerce sector co-operate with authorities on a continuous basis to prevent shoplifting. Despite the effective co-operation and systematic safety efforts, the frequency of serious threats, shoplifting and petty thefts has increased in recent years and particularly rapidly during the coronavirus pandemic. Active and visible presence in municipalities prevents shoplifting, disorderly behaviour and threats of violence.
“A safe local environment can be established the best by co-operation between different municipal parties, such as youth work services, schools, other authorities and local businesses. It is important to include the prevention of petty theft and shoplifting in local safety plans,” says Hiilamo.
Mari Kiviniemi, Managing Director, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)50 511 3189, mari.kiviniemi(at)kauppa.fi
Simo Hiilamo, Director, Public Policy and Advocacy at the Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)50 350 7564, simo.hiilamo(at)kauppa.fi