The City of Santa Rosa's Economic Competitiveness Task Force met for a second time yesterday. The agenda was short, and included reviewing the progress of the current Aggressive Economic Additions adopted in 2010 and reporting and discussing the results of their data gathering assignment from the previous meeting. For a summary of the first meeting, and a list of goals and members of the Task Force, please see my previous article here.
Task Force members and members of the public in attendance were provided with a packet of background information that included a Economic Sustainability Strategy report published in 2008, and the Aggressive Economic Development Augments adopted in May 2010 and June 2010.
Importantly, the augments adopted in May 2010 set specific goals for building an entrepreneurial environment by connecting entrepreneurs and businesses to existing support programs, supporting a vibrant downtown, making businesses feel welcome, promoting businesses in the community, encouraging green initiatives, and increasing tourism. The June 2010 augments to the Zoning Code were designed to streamline the permitting process, making it easier to do business in Santa Rosa.
No specific results were presented to the Task Force on the status or effectiveness of the adopted Aggressive Economic Development Augments, rather the discussion centered around the difficulty of tracking the results and the need for more quantifiable metrics to track progress in the future.
The last hour of the meeting was spent reviewing the results of conversations members of the Task Force had with their constituencies. As the conversation progressed, a few consistent themes emerged.
- There is still widespread perception that the City of Santa Rosa is burdensome for businesses to deal with, especially in regards to permitting.
- The Aggressive Economic Development Augments made to the Zoning Code last year may have fixed the major organizational problems, but the perception still exists (justified or not).
- Consistency of service is a key factor for improving the City's image with the business community.
- Businesses, especially small businesses, would benefit from more personalized service from an "ombudsman" or "ambassador" that guides them through the permitting process.
- Maintaining a vibrant downtown is key to maintaining a strong business community and a satisfied workforce.
The end of the meeting rolled around before the final four Task Force members were able to present their findings. Included in that group is Stephan Gale of Wellspring Business Development and Tanya Narath of the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy.
Stephen prepared a report of his findings for the Task Force and public attendees that included an emphasis on the need to support local businesses, the development of green industries, and the opportunities to leverage rail service soon to be provided by SMART.
Tanya will be presenting the findings from the joint survey conducted by GoLocal and the Leadership Institute. The responses received emphasized that considering the environment and supporting local businesses are of primary importance, and that a more broad, holistic view of community wealth and prosperity is needed.
With these two reports slated for the beginning of the next meeting, it is possible that the ensuing conversations will set the tone for how the Task Force prioritizes local businesses and ecological sustainability in its deliberations. It is not too late to have your opinions heard. Click here to participate in our online survey to inform the discussion.
The next Task Force meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 19th at 7:30 a.m. Check the City of Santa Rosa calendar here for updated information on the meeting location.