Bredfeldt helps city, businesses work together
Business people say they appreciate his responsiveness
Published: Sunday, July 21, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 7:02 p.m.
Dave Ferro was indignant, his gaze intent as he told his you-won't-believe-what-just-happened story.
A client of the commercial Realtor was told by a city planner that his auto repair business could not add collision repair to a new location "six weeks and tens of thousands of dollars" after he had said it could.
Within a week after wanting to scandalize city government, Ferro's tone changed after Erik Bredfeldt pulled together a meeting in his office on the second floor of the Thomas Center to iron out the details. Collision would be allowed after all and the deal proceeded as planned.
"It was extraordinary how helpful Erik Bredfeldt was," Ferro said. "After walking out of that meeting, I felt a lot more like we had a voice at the city … I was ready to throw Erik a parade."
Bredfeldt isn't ready for the roses to rain down on him just yet, calling the issue a simple miscommunication. He said they just went over what the business wanted to do, what the permitted uses are and "it resolved itself."
"That's all it took was really putting the parties together and providing a little bit of consensus-building facilitator role," Bredfeldt said.
Bredfeldt will have more time to play facilitator for businesses in his new role as economic development and innovation director. He was named to the position in December, but has continued to serve as planning and development services director as the city looks for someone to fill that post.
"The sense is that in some cases somebody has to take ownership of certain projects from the city's perspective. That's going to be my role," Bredfeldt said. "That will mean that if something is being proposed that needs some follow-through that I will probably get involved with that. Some of that I do now and have been doing the last five, six years in my current role as well. I think the point is I'll be doing it more full time."
Bredfeldt, 47, has a bachelor's in economics from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. He came to the University of Florida in 1990, where he earned master's and doctorate degrees in Urban and Regional Planning.
After nine years as assistant director of community development in Largo, he was hired as Gainesville's economic development director in 2003. He said a lot of his job was to oversee the Enterprise Zone program and the Gainesville Technology Enterprise Center, work on the Airport Industrial Park and help businesses through the permitting and regulatory process.
He kept that role when he was also put over planning and building in 2007, but with a staff of 40 and most of his time taken up by planning, he said his economic development work dropped to about a quarter of his workload.
Once a planning and development services director is hired, Bredfeldt will be going back to City Hall for the economic development role.
"It's an acknowledgement by the (city) commission that there are probably enough things happening now because the economy is starting to come back a little bit that it warrants somebody working on it full time."
Bredfeldt said the word "innovation" was added to the title because of the community's focus on the innovation economy but also as a push to do more innovative things within city government.
That means trying to improve some of the processes that slow or confuse the development and regulatory processes. He will be in a position to help implement suggestions that came out of a committee made up of developers and city board members.
For example, the committee recommended coordinating development review between general city government and Gainesville Regional Utilities so they are on the same time frame.
Business people say they appreciate his responsiveness.
"I can call Erik on his cellphone evenings and weekends now rather than trying to get ahold of the planner of the day who doesn't know near as much as Erik," said Beau Beery of Coldwell Banker Commercial M.M. Parrish Realtors. "He's saving a lot of time and has been great to deal with so far."
Bredfeldt seems to have the temperament to walk the tightrope between business and city government. He is measured in his responses.
When asked at a real estate forum in January whether city government is a help or hindrance to business, he thought a moment before answering that the city has many constituencies and a very engaged and deliberative citizenry that can sometimes complicate the approval process.
"You couldn't do this position if you had sort of a type-A personality because you really do have to help get involved in helping facilitate and manage through certain things and really trying to get to ‘yes' in many respects," he said in a recent interview.
"I've always tried to be sort of a peacemaker, a consensus-builder."
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