Knowing and Growing our Local
As staff for a City of over 50,000 residents, we get a number of questions regarding the local economy. Primarily we are asked what we are doing to bring new businesses to town and what we are doing to provide quality jobs for our residents. Watsonville’s Economic Development team focuses on three primary functions: Business Retention, Business Expansion and Business Attraction. Today we are focusing on how we work with our existing businesses to keep them here and to help them when they need to grow. It is also worth pointing out that having a happy and healthy business community and a strong business retention and expansion program is the best way to grow the local economy and to attract new businesses.
Knowing what skills and what types of businesses we have in town helps us shape our attraction efforts. Understanding how our workforce fits with our key businesses make it easier for us to attract businesses. In attraction efforts, nothing can sell a city like a successful business community.
The most important thing that we do is establish and maintain ongoing relationships with key businesses. Each year, our economic development staff visits with over 200 businesses – including our largest employers, largest sales tax generators and companies that are growing. This allows us to be proactive with businesses that are expanding and businesses that are in trouble – and provide them with the help they need. To reach out to small business, we developed our Annual Business Walk which takes place each September. This event is fairly simple –a group of volunteers visit as many small businesses as we can and find out how they are doing (and why).
We have been successful in these efforts over the past few years. Our current industrial vacancy is around 1% and our office vacancy rate is under 5% and employment has increased substantially. Having good relationships with our local business community helped us land a few new businesses, including Monterey Bay Spice Company and Johnson Art Studios.
It isn’t enough to just talk to our business community, we also have to provide services that can help them succeed. For this, we lean on our partners like our local banks, the Small Business Development Center, El Pajaro Community Development Center, the Chamber of Commerce and others. We also provide direct services like our façade improvement program, our business assistance program and our loan guarantee program
While we are proud of our retention efforts, we do have problems that need solutions. The largest is that our Economic Development efforts are funded primarily through the Redevelopment Agency. The State of California has taken billions of local tax dollars from Redevelopment Agencies over the past few years and the future of redevelopment is murky. Our other big problem is that Watsonville is out of land. There are very few development sites in Watsonville and those that exist are expensive to develop. Redevelopment has traditionally been the tool to deal with these problems. Given the fact that our Economic Development efforts have identified nine businesses that need to expand in the next five years, we need to solve these problems soon.
If you have questions or would like to learn more about the Economic Development efforts underway in Watsonville, please visit our new Economic Development website at www.GrowInWatsonville.com or call our Economic Development Manager, Kurt Overmeyer, at (831) 768-3087.
This entry was posted on Monday, October 11th, 2010 at 12:27 pm and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.