Applications are due October 15 for communities seeking to enter the one-year Leadership STAR Community Program, which will support a cohort of cities, towns and counties as they use the STAR Community Rating System to measure progress toward a common set of sustainability metrics. Incentives to businesses are prominent among the local actions communities can take to generate points within the framework and that are considered essential to achieving the desired outcomes.

The STAR Community Rating System is a voluntary, self-reporting framework for evaluating, quantifying and improving the livability and sustainability of US communities. It is based on the three pillars of sustainability – economy, environment and society – and is organized around the following seven goal areas:

  1. Built Environment: Achieve livability, choice, and access for all where people live, work and play
  2. Climate & Energy: Reduce climate impacts through adaptation and mitigation efforts and increase resource efficiency
  3. Education, Arts & Community: Empower vibrant, educated, connected and diverse communities
  4. Economy & Jobs: Create equitably shared prosperity and access to quality jobs
  5. Equity & Empowerment: Ensure equity, inclusion and access to opportunity for all citizens
  6. Health & Safety: Strengthen communities to be healthy, resilient and safe places for residents and businesses
  7. Natural Systems: Protect and restore the natural resource base upon which life depends

The rating system includes six objectives related to Economy & Jobs. Several local actions under those six objectives plus a few others related to the Built Environment and Education, Arts & Community would generate rating points for providing incentives to businesses and developers.

These local actions include:

  • Utilize tax incentives to retain or expand businesses, including property tax abatement, local sales tax rebates, and/or tax increment financing
  • Provide direct financial assistance to businesses in the form of municipal bonds, grants, or loans
  • Support business development activities in special investment zones, such as Business Improvement Districts, Enterprise Zones, or other similar districts
  • Provide incentives for businesses that use materials produced within the region and sell their products within the region
  • Use tax incentives to attract, retain, or expand businesses in targeted industry sectors
  • Provide direct financial assistance, such as local bonds, grants or loans to attract, retain or expand businesses in targeted industry sectors
  • Provide incentives for businesses that use materials produced within the region and sell their products within the region
  • Provide incentives for healthful retail food outlets to locate in underserved areas or for mobile vendors that only sell fresh food
  • Provide incentives to encourage the rehabilitation of historic buildings and reinvestment in older and historic neighborhoods and commercial areas
  • Provide financial incentives to encourage infill and redevelopment
  • Adopt regulatory strategies or development incentives to create, maintain, and connect parks and public spaces
  • Provide incentives to residents and developers to protect and restore critical watershed protection areas
  • Create incentives to encourage the construction of energy and water efficient certified buildings

The framework also include numerous other local actions to provide a variety of services to businesses, including training, incubators, capacity building, connecting companies to lenders and investors, and workforce development.

There is much more to the STAR rating system than incentives, so it is worth taking time to read the full report.  But it is interesting to us that incentives have received so much consideration in this valuable sustainability framework.