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Opinion Articles

2016/17

|

High-Tech & Technology -

DUN’S

100

25

Opinion Article

The Three Environments Model: The Municipality’s

Role in Generating Business Prosperity in its City

By Haim Sofer, General Manager, Municipality of Ashkelon

T

he city of Ashkelon faces complex busi-

ness-economic challenges, including

socio-economic, security, geographical,

transportation and administrative challenges. Nev-

ertheless, Ashkelon is currently showing a great

economic, cultural and human development mo-

mentum. This achievement is the result of the mu-

nicipality’s actions under the “Three Environments

Model”, simultaneous pro-active management of

the three critical business prosperity environments

in the urban realm – Human, Physical and Admin-

istrative – as defined in the vision of the Mayor,

Mr. Itamar Shimoni.

The Human Environment

is the most important pillar, as the municipality

believes that a strong, dynamic, entrepreneurial

and talented environment is a vital component of

the business prosperity. Every business requires

such skilled workforce, which can overcome great

hurdles on the path to success. In order to attract

and maintain quality population, the municipality

operates in three main directions:

a. Education.

This is the cornerstone of supporting

the population and businesses. We invest enor-

mous resources in various educational aspects in

the city- frompreschool, through a comprehensive

structure of daycares and kindergartens, through

excellent schools which include afterhours care

and activities until 17:00, aswell as hobby classes,

bus rides, holiday camps and other services. The

municipality emphasizes the reduction in class

density, and strengthens the higher education

activities in Ashkelon.

b. Culture.

Urban culture is an important factor in

creating a cohesive, integral urban texture, support-

ing tourism and life quality. Ashkelon is a regional

center for culture, youth, sports and leisure activi-

ties. The city has vast continuous cultural activities

year-round, throughmyriad performances, theater

acts, concerts, culture and art shows, exhibitions,

and many culture and art institutions.

c. High Quality of Life.

The municipality leverages

Ashkelon’s geographical and historical strengths

to create a place with high life quality for residents

and an impressive touristic experience for visitors.

The municipality cultivates the beach, national

park, marina, parks and gardens, and maintains

a pleasant and accessible city.

The Physical Environment

Experience shows that a supply of skilled workers

isn’t sufficient for creating a prosperous business

environment. Too often we encounter “commuter

towns” to which educated and skilled workers re-

turn after work, which is done elsewhere. In order

to prevent this situation andmaintain the business

and culture center inside the city, an appropriate

physical environment must be created, to attract

advanced andmultinational businesses that could

benefit from the city’s skilled population. The mu-

nicipality has a crucial role in this, including:

a. Proper Transportation.

Previously, transporta-

tion was a major barrier for successful businesses

in Ashkelon. From the perception that the city

needs fast, open private and public transporta-

tion, the municipality invested great resources,

directly and through negotiation and cooperation

with government and transportation entities, to

make every point in the city accessible and create

a fast transformational linkbetween Ashkelon and

other urban centers.

b. Modern, Aesthetical Business Environment.

In-

dustrial zones and office centers are often some

of the city’s most neglected areas. This creates a

negative image for businesses in the area, and less

customer traffic and workers’ satisfaction. Themu-

nicipality’s role is to facilitate modern, cultivated

and aesthetic business centers. In the case of new

zones we did this through meticulous planning

and proper allo-

cation of service

areas. In the

case of existing

zones one may,

for example, cre-

ate incentive and

support plans for

existing business-

es and mutual art

projects.

c. Low Office and City

Tax Costs.

We consider

the business leasing/

ownership costs to be

part of its physical envi-

ronment. Owing to a vast

supply of industrial and

office spaces, the price

per m2 in Ashkelon is con-

siderably lower than in other areas in Central Israel.

This is also true for city tax. Lower costs enable

businesses tomaintain larger offices, for creating a

better impression on customers andmore pleasant

work environments, which promote productivity

and satisfaction. They reduce the capital barrier of

small businesses, and attract multinational com-

panies that require vast office, data centers and

computing infrastructure spaces.

The Administrative Environment

Israel is rated 53rd in the doing businesses index,

low for an OECDmember. Many of the bureaucratic

hurdles for entrepreneurs and businessmen are at

themunicipal level. We aim tominimize these, and

create a friendly, simple administrative environ-

ment supporting the managerial perspective. For

this we created a green entrepreneurship route,

with direct support of the municipality’s staff for

meeting all the requirements, without intermediar-

ies, complex and expensive legal counseling and

constant conflict on the business administration.

The business-municipal cooperation extends be-

yond the municipal jurisdiction, as the municipal

staff applies its administrative knowledge and

experience for assisting entrepreneurs with extra-

municipal entities.

We believe that a prosperous business environ-

ment requires co-existence of these three pillars,

and the one of our important roles is to manage

them for enabling business growth and success.

The best proof for this is the strong economic mo-

mentum fromwhich companies, factories and busi-

ness in Ashkelon benefit.

Haim Sofer is the General Manager of the Municipality of Ashkelon; an Entrepreneur & Owner of several high-tech companies; and a Senior Advisor to companies and organizations

Haim Sofer