Opinion - Elk Grove’s Economic Development. . .What’s Next?

By Connie Conley, Elk Grove Community Connection | September 6, 2014 | With the recent departure of Elk Grove’s Economic Developm...

By Connie Conley, Elk Grove Community Connection | September 6, 2014 |

With the recent departure of Elk Grove’s Economic Development Director Randy Starbuck, the city of Elk Grove announced plans for his replacement to be hired by November.  I cannot help but believe the final straw in Starbuck’s unsuccessful tenure came about when Elk Grove residents Jeff Owen and Nikki Carpenter spoke at an Elk Grove Council meeting last March, prompting Council member Pat Hume, in his usual anecdotal style, to address Starbuck personally.

However, the Elk Grove City Council has a larger economic picture to address here, and Starbuck’s ineffectiveness is asymptomatic of much bigger obstacles.

In 2000, when Elk Grove incorporated, the original city council set our city on a future path of being a bedroom community, eager to approve every housing development that came their way. After all, those developers’ contributions and fees were hard to resist. 

Though many active citizens spoke up at the time, imploring the council to slow things down and think about business park development and infrastructure, such as what was being done in Roseville, the council turned a deaf ear. After all, Elk Grove was raking in the developer money and we had tens of millions in reserves. But in Planning 101, when the houses stop being built, the money stops coming in. It didn’t take long for the reserves to dry up after the council voted to form our own bus transit system and police department. 

In all fairness, in creating our own police department, with public safety the one number priority in any city, among other factors such as excellent schools and beautiful parks, we have created and sustained a quality community which should certainly attract large employers. But why haven’t we?

In 2006, came new council members and a new focus:  Jobs, jobs, jobs!  It is now 2014, and except for the California Correctional Health Care Services, which cost us taxpayers over three million dollars in incentives to bring that agency to Elk Grove, we haven’t attracted much more. 

Now that the incentive money is gone, we must continue to spur economic growth, and our city can ill afford any more retail leakage. So what’s next?

As stated by several residents, including this one, the city of Elk Grove must adopt and implement a sophisticated market analysis to develop a strategy to attract businesses. That analysis should also include a study of the habits of not only our city’s residents, but also our region’s residents. We must have clear goals and objectives. And I am sorry, that is not attending conferences in Las Vegas which is what we seemed to only hear was occurring at council meetings in economic development updates.

Before we even embark on hiring another economic development director, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes, the council needs to answer the following questions:

  •   Do we know our customers?
  •   Do we understand our community’s economic profile?
  •   Do we have data to quantify retail demand and market potential?
  •   Are we attracting businesses and retailers that “fit” with our community?
  •   Are we being strategic and informed in site selections?
  •   Are we really assisting our city’s existing local businesses?

In closing, the Elk Grove City Council has a wealth of experience and knowledge in our residents and business owners who can assist in answering these questions and in developing our next economic development strategy. The council needs to utilize these experts!

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Sarah Johnson said...

I agree with Connie's analysis and I share her concerns about what comes next. It would be very disappointing if this City Council and City Staff continued to repeat the same mistakes over and over again that they have been making.
Step back,learn what will works for our community, and formulate a plan to implement the vision. It's what we have suggested in the past, begged them to consider, etc. Not often you get a second chance, so appreciate your good fortune, and do us proud!

SteveB6509 said...

I generally agree about asking and answering these questions, but I would like to see these answers come from a new Economic Development Officer. Otherwise, the answers will be crafted by the City Council (who Connie rightfully described as being susceptible to the influences of those who fund their campaign) or City staff (who can execute a plan well but who should not be deciding on what that plan is). I would like to see an Economic Development Director help us answer these questions.

lynn said...

Has anyone noticed that staff more often than not does not give recommendations, but asks for council guidance? Has any of the qualified staff been allowed to do their job? The direction for development of any kind comes from council, and in my opinion this guidance is lead by campaign contributions.

Anonymous said...

What you see is what you get...more of the same. As to the Economic Dev. Dir. hunt...there's probably one out there a little unhappy with his present job, so come on down! Elk Grove's hiring.

Warren Zinn said...

Starbuck, and Gill for that matter are symptoms of the larger cancer growing at city hall. The various schemes being cooked up show that cancer is hubris. Any student of history will remember that those displaying the most hubris ultimately fall victim to that very behavior.

Howard Zinn said...

Speaking from the grave, and without any hubris, I find Sheldon to be the salvation of Elk-less Grove. Sheldon is the unique, non-urban portion of Elk Grove that defies what urban Elk Grove has become.
Open space, farming, and the natural buffer to the urban mistakes of a bedroom community is what that part of
Elk Grove ensures for us all.
Historically, I have little faith in this city's government to any more than maximize its revenues.
Improvements in quality of life seem quite beyond our city fathers' capabilities.
I see a terribly dysfunctional cityscape, speeding traffic, and poor pedestrian access.
Why should we seek economic advice from the same players who brought us this dismal fiscal collapse?
The only thing I can see is more flooding due to the lousy investment of drainage funds to buy disappearing farmland for commercial sports developments.

Anonymous said...

Our city has Internet access...have they ever thought about doing a little research before doing a hire? Some of us did early on and there was much to be found on Mr. Starbuck, as far south as San Diego Newspapers, but the hire was done!

It's over...costly perhaps, but hopefully a lesson learned.

John Waters said...

Our fair leaders out to be accepting of what Elk Grove really is - we are a bedroom community. That doesn't mean we can be a great community with good schools, buses that run on time, garbage gets picked up, roads are maintained and safe streets. Sure, Elk Grove can make services available for our citizens, but we are never, ever going to be a tourist destination. So city councilman, embrace our true identity and build on that - don't try being something that you will never be.

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