Two Years Later - Not Much to Show on the Elk Grove Economic Development Front

October 16, 2013 | In the last couple weeks Elk Grove marked the second anniversary of an event that came and went with no fanfare or ...

October 16, 2013 |
In the last couple weeks Elk Grove marked the second anniversary of an event that came and went with no fanfare or reason to mark its celebration.

It was on September 29, 2011 that Elk Grove City Manager Laura Gill announced the selection of Randy Starbuck as the city's new economic development director. In her announcement of Starbuck, who replaced Steve Czarnecki, Gill said she was "confident he will be an invaluable asset in boosting the economic vitality of Elk Grove.”

Since that time. very little if any, economic development that has occurred can be attributed to Starbuck's activity. To be certain, nationally-based retailers such as Designer Shoe Warehouse moved into town during the last two years, but they were attracted by the city's demographics and their own expansion plans that Elk Grove fit into.

Oh sure, maybe the city helped DSM, The Fresh Market and other new retailers with paperwork and streamlined the process, but retailers like these were not brought here by the efforts of Starbuck. Indeed, in his quickly disappearing quarterly appearances before the Elk Grove City Council, Starbuck has continually mentioned his focus on attracting biotech companies and getting the languishing Elk Grove Promenade tenants. To date, no biotech company to the best of our knowledge has opened shop here and construction has not restarted on the Promenade after five-plus years of dormancy.

Even if Starbuck was instrumental in attracting these retailers, which he wasn't, is this how we want to use a six-figure income employee - to attract more minimum wage employers?

In fairness, Starbuck's background and experience was geared to redevelopment in places like Pittsburg, Calif. But as fate would have it, at about the same time Elk Grove set up its own redevelopment agency, Gov. Jerry Brown pulled the plug on state funding for the agencies. 

Nonetheless, as Starbuck said at the time of his hire, "I look forward to working with the City Council, the Elk Grove EDC, business community and residents on strengthening the local economy and bringing more jobs and business to Elk Grove." Starbuck was instrumental in bringing ice skating to Old Town Elk Grove last Christmas Holiday season.

Good thing for Starbuck he works in the public and not the private sector. As anyone who has spent time in the private sector knows, if you make big promises and don't deliver something more than vague power point presentations highlighting ads you placed in trade journals, people you talked to at some liquor-laden Las Vegas retailer convention and have not consummated any deals sales after eight quarters, you are toast.

But this isn't the private sector where, love it or not, you are measured on quarter-to-quarter results, it's Elk Grove government.   

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6 comments

JeffO said...

I applaud Elk Grove news for this article, as it touches on an issue I've been frustrated by, which is what Randy Starbuck has done to deserve his paycheck. It's nothing personal against him, I'm sure he wants to be successful but as it was stated his previous merits in redevelopment don't fit with our needs now.

The recently added retail stores came because they saw us as a viable market not out of recruiting. As a high paid city official, in a position critical to our future, at the least Starbuck should have to make a quarterly presentation in open session on what he has done. Not just areas of focus or ideas but measurable goals and results. I myself head am an operations guy, head count matters when you're dealing with the size staff the city has, you can't carry people.

Unless otherwise demonstrated with results the city needs to determine if he can help us get to where we want to get or if it's time for change.

The other caveat to this is whether or not the council and city manager have given him the right guidance and support. If I was mayor or a council member I would be writing and meeting with every CEO, start up business and venture capitalist who would take my meeting to get them to set up shop in Elk Grove.

We are a blank slate right now, with a core of highly educated residents, we just need the right city vision, perseverance, high standards, and driven leaders to get us over the hump.

Lynn said...

Jeff,

I appreciate your comments. Leadership and direction is important. I am willing to bet that Starbuck may have some great ideas but he is responding to leadership direction. I couldn't imagine Starbuck responding to a couple of the councils comments with a truly honest picture of the situation and still continue to have his job. He is doing what council and city manager tell him to do. Can we really bring high end jobs when we have as standard eateries; McDonalds? How about driving through some of the neighborhoods? how about all the shopping center, commercial vacancies? Is the city thriving? When the general plan is changed so many times would any company have certainty within the city? Great Cities are built upon a foundation...not piecemeal or market reactive....long term....I attend meetings...when businesses have to fight to keep their position within a certain area...what does this say?...yes some small businesses had to do that within our commercial industrial areas. I wanted so much for the residents of our city and I did have a vision for residents, businesses, and the futures. I hope Jeff you attend council meetings and step up to the podium....

Doc Bricker said...

I think the roughly $500,000 the taxpayers have spent on him over the past two years (salary+benefits)proves more than anything else that Elk Grove's economy is only as healthy as the region (and state) is. Unlike Helen Keller, Starbuck is not a miracle worker.

UC Davis economists have said time and again that the Sac area economy is dominated by government and construction. Government hiring is virtually stagnant, so EG's strategy is to steal existing government jobs from other cities. EG's strategy to encourage more construction is to relax all of their standards and fees, rezone whatever the current market needs and developers demand, and hope for the best--entry-level homes in subdivisions with extremely high tax assessments. Then when we build enough rooftops, more minimum-wage retail will open. The SOI ensures that this vicious cycle and the Ponzi scheme of raking in new development fees to pay for past impacts continues until we run out of land (or Galt decides to dis-incorporate and become part of EG!).

Randy Starbuck is but a placeholder on the payroll so EG can say they have an active role in Economic Development. But bigger forces are at work here and like all city staff, he is neither at the helm nor in the engine room. But, the galley is always open with lunch buffets featuring fresh tax dollars served on biscuits and gravy!

Jill said...

Now, now, let’s not all pile on Mr. Starbuck at once. He can only do what the five men sitting on the current council tell him.

Now let’s consider these men shall we.

Going from left to right on the dais, first up is Sleepy. No disrespect to your service to the schools, but really, why are you there? If not for some slick media manipulation and cowardice on the guy in the center of dais, you would be playing shuffle board with Abe Simpson at the Springfield retirement home.

Next up is Mr. Cliché. We know you are there for one reason and one reason only – to get that road built so your family, or whoever they are (can you say consanguinity?) can cash in.

In the middle is the laser focused guy who loves Elk Grove so much he wants to see MORE of Elk Grove! Quick mugging for the TV, cooking up delusional schemes and get to work on filling potholes and getting our garbage picked up. You are going no where in your party, everyone knows it, so just do your job and seek intensive psychotherapy for those delusions you are suffering from.

For the water skier, quit pimping your son and put your ego in check. And while you’re at it, the more you engage in lawsuits, the sillier you make yourself and Elk Grove look.

And for the guy on the end, aside from taking more of Moore’s money – pun intended – just, ah forgot it, we won’t go there today.

So you wonder why Starbuck has no guidance?

Now for the city manager. She is running so scared that she’ll go along with any hair brain scheme any of the five dais boys just to keep her cool gig. Madame City Manager, quit talking about all the foney-baloney-plastic-banana-rock-and-roll-good-time awards they give out. Those are given out like trophies to a five year olds soccer team. They are meaningless, alright!

Jim White said...

@ Jill LMFAO

Nice comment, I loved it and agree!

Jim White said...

@ Jill LMFAO

I love your comment, and agree!

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