Fort Payne Mayor Brian Baine recently detailed a variety of initiatives he is involved in to improve the look of and quality of life inside the city, grow the tax base and honor veterans.

Starting a business is the dream of many Americans, but it can be a confusing and intimidating process. Because small businesses are the engine that drive the economy and create new jobs, Baine said the City of Fort Payne is working to streamline its licensing and inspections processes for a more seamless experience that focuses on helping people rather than merely dictating everything they can’t do.

Baine recently met with Fire Marshal Stacy Smith and officials from the Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce and Fort Payne Main Street, among others.

“We want people to be able to come into Fort Payne and be able to open a business, knowing up front everything that’s got to be done. You’ve got your A, B, Cs here and a clear contact person. We want to make that easier for people when they come into town to do business here,” Baine said.

He and the Fort Payne City Council want to do more to help small businesses who often see the City granting tax abatements to attract new industries and wonder how they can be helped as well.

Encouraging new business development is also the focus of the Fort Payne/DeKalb County Entrepreneurial Center, which will provide a physical location for a start-up business, civic organization, student or individual to initiate or incubate a business or an idea. It will include a state-of-the-art conference room, retail space for start-up businesses to rent, reception space, professional offices, and a restaurant training area. It will also have re-entry programs to help those going back into the workforce after being out for a while.

The City is also looking at revising its sign ordinance. Baine said the current version is “hard to read and know exactly what it’s saying. We need a one-page flyer with bullet points spelling out what someone can or can’t do. That will be part of what we let businesses know about.”

To make Fort Payne more attractive, the mayor also targeted several old houses that need to be demolished.

“In the past, the fire department would do some of the burns, but we had to stop that with the asbestos abatements. We want to look at ways to get some of these things addressed. I have a page full of notes about different places that need to be looked at. Some of it is already addressed in ordinances we already have in place. It’s just a matter of making sure we stay consistent in doing that. That’ll be in the works in the near future,” Baine said.

Completion of the Veterans Memorial Park is another project Baine wants to see accelerated. The site lacks monuments to the service branches. Working with the organizers, he wants to see it completed and have a dedication ceremony on Veteran’s Day in 2022.

Homelessness is another problem every community faces, and Baine said there will be a meeting on Sept. 2 at 6:30 p.m in the City Auditorium.

“I’ve had a lot of calls about the homeless folks here. We don’t have, per se, a homeless shelter. There is a need for something. Local churches have gotten together for meetings and tried to look at different things. We want to get these folks interested in doing something together. This Marked for Life Hope Center tries to transition folks from homelessness to finding them a job. Maybe by the wintertime, we won’t have people living up under bridges. We can have a process for handling those folks. This could turn into something good for Fort Payne,” Baine said.

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