"Frankly, it's changed our conversation," he said.
"If you're going to pay a bit more, you want to make sure you're getting value."
He has recently been in talks with three different businesses looking to move into city limits. Under Huntington's older laws, he said those firms would have been looking for space in unincorporated areas or in other states.
He said the tax changes "have begun tearing down the metaphorical wall of taxation to just a speed bump."
Huntington was the first city to experiment with tax changes, but being first can also bring trial-and-error situations.
Originally, the tax changes included a conversion of the $3 city user fee into a 1 percent occupation tax on income for anyone who worked in the city. The amount would have been capped at $1,200.
"College students were paying the same amount as their professors," Williams said of the user fee.
However, lawsuits were filed against the occupation tax and while they were pending, the city decided to keep the $3 user fee and drop the occupation tax earlier this year.
Still, Williams said the tax changes are proving to be positive for the city, calling the sales tax more "robust" revenue.
According to data the city provided to the state Legislature, the city has generated more than $2 million in revenue because of the sales tax. At the same time, Huntington businesses have saved more than $2 million in B&O taxes.
"The beauty of home rule is we can now craft out ordinances to meet the immediate needs of our community," he said.
Tax changes aren't the only thing Huntington has done under home rule, though. The city has also tackled dilapidated and damaged buildings in its boundaries.
"We have cleaned up our city," Williams said.
Like Wheeling, Huntington also copied an on-the-spot citation policy from Charleston. In doing so, Williams said the city has seen drastic improvements in building owners making repairs. He said 75 percent of citations have been brought into compliance by the time the citation gets to court.
"We're not having to fine people to fix and clean up their property," he said.
When a building is damaged by fire, city law now requires insurance money to first cover the cost of tearing down the burned building before money goes to the building's owner. That particular change is now available to all cities in the state. That move has saved the city more than $165,000.
"Our town has been cleaner than it has in ages," the mayor said.
He admitted that at first, city residents were suspicious of home rule and reluctant to embrace it.
"We're able to craft ordinances to meet our individual challenges," he said. "What we need in Huntington is not necessarily what they need in Ritchie County."
For prospective communities, Williams said communities should analyze their exiting operations and find out what works and what doesn't.
"Don't overreach," he said. "It's best at first to identify what has already been working. Identify what is the most pressing problem in the city."
Mayor Danny Jones said modifications to the city's revenue stream have been the most noticeable change under home rule.
"That's the biggie," he said.
Charleston has put together 12 different proposals based on its home rule authority -- three times more than Wheeling and Huntington, which have submitted four proposals to the state's home rule board (all have been approved).
In May, council members approved a measure establishing a .5 percent sales tax. The same bill also struck the B&O tax on manufacturing. Other B&O taxes still remain.
The money from the sales tax is expected to help fund renovations to the Charleston Civic Center.
Changes to the city's building code also stand out, he said.
Charleston was the first to experiment with on-the-spot citations, which allows inspectors to cite properties without going through a lengthy court process. The procedure has resulted in faster compliance, and only two of 63 citations actually reached municipal court, according to 2012 city figures.
The city also changed how it deals with state agencies. With the Department of Natural Resources, the city secured an annual blanket permit for dredge-and-fill activities in streams, instead of the city needing a permit for each project. With the Department of Environmental Protection, the city simplified its process for solid waste permits for dredge and fill loads.
In addition, the urban deer hunt was first proposed in Charleston, and has since been expanded statewide. The construction of the canopy at Haddad Riverfront Park and an expansion project at the Kroger at Ashton Place are also activities enabled by different home rule proposals.
Jones suggested prospective home rule cities keep their plans realistic.
"I wouldn't ask for the moon," he said. "I'd keep my plan narrow. I'd identify a few things and hit them hard."
Bridgeport is the other home rule community in the state. That city's mayor, Mario Blount, did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
However, according to state data, Bridgeport has fully implemented two home rule proposals.
The first is a proposal that made the annexation process easier. It allowed the city to annex several residential and commercial properties that were receiving city services and asked the city to be annexed.
The second is a reduction in the number of business license classifications from 81 to 1 and a flat fee of $15 for that license. This proposal is similar to Wheeling's.
Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Mur...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.