Santa Clarita Takes a Sustainable Approach to Economic Development
The City of Santa Clarita won the League Partners Award for Excellence in City-Business Relations in the 2018 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more about the award program, visit www.helenputnam.org.
Located 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles and 40 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, the City of Santa Clarita (pop. 216,589) is the third-largest city in Los Angeles County. Consistently named one of the “Most Business-Friendly Cities in Los Angeles” by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, Santa Clarita prides itself on its business-friendly reputation.
With an eye to the future and emerging economic development trends, the city recognized the need to contribute to the budding local startup ecosystem by creating an environment for entrepreneurs that will lead to a sustainable way to spur job creation.
Acknowledging that industries and jobs are changing, Santa Clarita identified the need to help develop and support local talent as part of building local economic prosperity in an increasingly technology-focused world. In response, the Santa Clarita Business Incubator program was created.
Strategic Planning for Long-Term Gains
After significant research and consideration, the city decided to seek and cultivate creative and technology-focused companies. These types of companies align with the Santa Clarita Valley’s targeted business industry clusters of digital media and entertainment as well as information technology. Such innovative companies are projected to generate employment opportunities that are well- suited to Santa Clarita’s highly educated and skilled labor force.
In addition, typical startup companies in these industries are leaner in size during the initial stages of business development, translating into the opportunity to help more companies in their early stages. This approach is supported by case studies of technology companies that were started in someone’s living room or over a cup of coffee and grew to become an economic powerhouse in the Santa Clarita community. Two such local companies now collectively provide over 600 jobs in the Santa Clarita Valley.
“Doing business in Santa Clarita has many benefits,” says Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation. “One is access to a highly skilled labor market that local businesses can tap to develop and train employees who effectively contribute to their company.”
When assessing potential business incubator sites, the city considered several locations. Old Town Newhall, Santa Clarita’s premier Arts and Entertainment District, proved to be an ideal fit. This neighborhood provides an excellent mix of historical charm, a walkable environment and access to local restaurants, entertainment, coffee shops and public transportation. The facility, which previously served as a library, now provides an open, co-working floor plan with spacious work stations and a conference room. Startup companies have the freedom to cultivate a work environment that promotes opportunities to engage, network and collaborate.
Teaming Up With Community Partnerships
The program helps local entrepreneurs refine their cutting-edge ideas and connects them with the resources needed to thrive. As a result, participating companies would grow and flourish in the Santa Clarita Valley and ultimately bring high quality jobs to the community. But simply providing office space was not sufficient. Involving strategic community partners and experts from a diverse range of business specialties was the key to participant success.
The program initially partnered with the local community College of the Canyons and the Small Business Development Center. These two resources provide one-on-one business consultation, access to funding and strategic, customized training programs for tenants. When the city announced plans to launch the incubator program, a local full-service legal firm offered to provide free and low-cost legal services to tenants. After discovering that the tenants needed accounting and financial planning support, the city approached a local accounting firm that immediately agreed to provide free or low-cost services. The opportunity to have business professionals advise each company on its specific issues increases the likelihood of success.
“As a city that constantly looks to enhance our local economy and boost job growth, we know that we cannot do it alone,” says City Manager Ken Striplin. “The incubator program’s robust offerings are in large part due to the strength of our strategic partnerships and collaborative efforts to equip local businesses with the tools they need to succeed.”
Celebrating Sustainable Success
The incubator program costs the city a total of $2,550 annually, which is paid from Santa Clarita’s General Fund. The program’s low cost is one of its unique features, made possible by the use of a space that the city already owned and the strategic partnerships that support the effort.
The Business Incubator launched in 2014. By the end of 2018, the incubator had created 24 new jobs and three companies had completed its three-year program and transitioned into nearby operating locations. The connections made through the program’s partnerships and access to a local, skilled labor force motivated these companies to stay and grow in Santa Clarita — adding high quality jobs for the community. The incubator currently houses two innovative companies in the creative and technology sectors.
Because the program operates at such low cost, it has attracted attention from other cities, chambers of commerce and private organizations interested in replicating the successful model.
The Santa Clarita Business Incubator demonstrates the value the city places on prioritizing the needs of its residents and taking strategic action in a collaborative, thoughtful manner. By fostering a supportive environment for the innovative companies of tomorrow, Santa Clarita has found a way to bring sustainable businesses and quality jobs to its community.
Contact: Denise Covert, economic development associate, City of Santa Clarita; email: email@example.com; phone: (661) 284-1411.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the City of Santa Clarita and League of California Cities.
This article appears in the May 2019 issue of Western City
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