By the end of her first term, our next mayor must lead the way toward making Sacramento the easiest place to do business in California. While this is a challenging goal, it is absolutely critical to the future of our city. At the same time, the next mayor must help bring jobs into disadvantaged parts of our city and create partnerships to improve workforce development programs. By bringing these elements together, in the next four years we can see a diversification of jobs and growing opportunities for meaningful employment across the city.
Sacramento is positioned to compete for and create high-wage tech jobs expanding beyond the Bay Area. It’s important that we continue to enhance opportunities to incubate, recruit, and grow the tech industry in our region. Regional partners like Vision Service Plan, Intel, UC Davis, Cal State Sacramento, and Raging Wire can serve as advisors and partners in this recruitment effort. The Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, made up of CEOs from across our region, is working hard to sell Sacramento and create interest in our area. Key to area economic growth is our commitment to housing, transportation, education, and quality of life. Building on Sacramento’s reputation as an incredible place to live, work, and play is the foundation of business recruitment and retention.
- Process Improvements: As the cost of doing business continues to skyrocket in California’s large coastal cities, Sacramento is poised to attract, grow, and retain jobs if we become more business friendly. Investors need to have reasonable time and cost assurances for their projects. We must streamline and clarify procedures across our city departments, changing the culture at City Hall.
- Permit Simplicity Program: In their white paper issued this winter, Sacramento’s business leaders called for the creation of a Permit Simplicity Program, which would create guarantees for permit issuance in 90 days or less, set the lowest fees in the region, and utilize programmatic EIRs for CEQA streamlining. Our next mayor should work to accomplish these goals, while keeping stakeholders directly involved in this reform process.
- Job Training/Workforce Pipeline: Our next mayor must have a coordinated approach, working with local schools, universities, community colleges, career tech campuses, businesses, community groups, faith based leaders, training facilities, and youth programs to pipeline local hires, train potential employee pools, and create a job ready workforce in Sacramento focused on high demand career paths.
- Six Proposals to Incentivize Job Creation and Growth:
- Create Local Incentives and Rebates based on job creation and local hiring, tailored specifically to the business being recruited. For example: if a tech firm utilizing extremely high utilities (such as a server farm or co-location site) agrees to a local hiring program and significant high-wage jobs, as a recruitment tool they would be made eligible for a city utility user tax rebate program.
- Open a Business Assistance Center (BAC) based on the successful model in the City of Oakland. Offering full-time staff dedicated to helping small business owners navigate the city government, the BAC would provide referrals to local organizations, county and state agencies, and other resources to help entrepreneurs to start, operate, and grow a business. Our next mayor should recreate this model in Sacramento.
- Bring Equity Crowdfunding to Sacramento: Recent changes in federal law have opened up opportunities for individuals to invest in companies and obtain equity through these investments. Prior to the regulatory changes, only high net worth individuals could invest at the ground level of exciting startups and in local businesses. The City of Sacramento, in partnership with the Sacramento Employment and Economic Development (SEED) Corporation and the Mayor’s Office of Innovation, must provide a platform to encourage participation in equity crowdfunding opportunities. This is a cutting edge way to invest in local business. Sacramento should get ahead of this issue in a way that allows our local small businesses (from all across our city) to gain access to new funding options. At the same time, this would provide new options for Sacramentans to invest in local businesses and build wealth in our neighborhoods.
- Develop a Sacramento Microloan Program: The City of Sacramento, through the Sacramento Employment and Economic Development (SEED) Corporation should develop the Sacramento Microloan Program. This program would offer low cost, low/no interest microloan financing ($5,000 to $50,000) to qualified small businesses and create jobs for residents in Sacramento’s priority neighborhoods. Cities like Boulder and Kansas City have had great success with these programs, and we can build on their successes in our city.
- Maximize the Potential of our Downtown Sacramento Revitalization Corporation: It was established in 2006 but officially formed in 2011 by Councilmember Ashby, who has served as President since inception. The first project was the Greyhound bus station in the River District and the 2nd project was 7th and K St., a project we almost lost due to the dissolution of redevelopment. Unlike previous funding mechanisms, the Revitalization Corp. seeks to be an investment partner, creating a return for reinvestment on future projects in our urban core.
- Open Up City Land to Private-Public Partnerships and Entrepreneurs: From large properties left over from redevelopment, to small strips of land — too often land owned by the city is not available to innovative entrepreneurs. One small example of this is the pedestrian underpass between Old Sacramento and Downtown Commons — which has more than ample space to open for pop-up vendors (whose presence would also improve the perceived safety of the walkway).
- Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Institute: The next mayor must connect future job creators in their local neighborhoods with the available tools and incentive programs, particularly in underemployed parts of our community. We need to create an atmosphere where Sacramentans see a pathway to business ownership in our city, and a Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Institute, based on models like Brooklyn’s Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Project, would connect would-be entrepreneurs with the resources that can be made available to them.
- Bring the Calling All Dreamers Contest to Underserved Communities: The Downtown Sacramento Foundation’s “Calling All Dreamers Contest” is successfully building small local businesses in our downtown core. Our next mayor must work to replicate this success in communities like Del Paso Heights, South Oak Park, Northgate, and South Sacramento. We have a model that clearly works — let’s take it citywide.
- Mayor’s Economic Council: Charged with creating a detailed work plan that focuses on process improvements, incentive programs/packages, and a focus on key future developments like the riverfront, this council will help identify and address impediments to local investment and the recruitment and retention of businesses. This council must include diverse businesses and community leaders from across the region. Portland’s innovative program provides a strong model for an economic cabinet that is accountable for real deliverables, with metrics, for economic development.
- Small Business Roundtable: Growing and supporting local small businesses is an important part of moving our region forward by cultivating and maintaining jobs — making it as convenient as possible for entrepreneurs to choose and remain in Sacramento by linking entrepreneurs to resources offered through the proposed Business Assistance Center as well as local chambers. Creating spaces for shared ideas and collaboration, incentivizing investment and creating opportunities for expansion in our city are key to growing small businesses in Sacramento.
- Next City Manager: We must recruit a City Manager who is experienced and up to the challenge of helping make our city the safest and the most business and neighborhood friendly in California. We should ensure that the salary is competitive and that the job search is exhaustive. Because of our City Manager / City Council system, the City Manager has a major role in the success of our city. This hiring decision will be key for our next mayor and council, and its success is critical to the future of our city.
- Entrepreneurs Come in all Shapes & Sizes: As part of the economic build out of our city, it is important to create opportunities for all entrepreneurs to succeed. We must build on our network of veteran owned, minority owned, and female owned businesses. There are many resources available through the military and through local chambers to help such businesses thrive. Sacramento needs to take advantage of all of those programs and connect business owners to resources, while also establishing low cost business loans and micro loans to help entrepreneurs get started.
- Nothing is Too Small Philosophy: Our last 8 years have been about big projects — and while our next mayor must also focus on big projects (Railyards, Natomas redevelopment site, etc.), she must also be committed to a “nothing is too small” philosophy of job growth. From supporting pop-up stores, to working to make city land available for small start-ups, to supporting co-working spaces, every little bit counts, and this needs to permeate the culture of City Hall, from the top down.