With No Significant Marks in the Win Column, Elk Grove's Economic Development Department Expands

September 6, 2017 |

Will Doan go the way of Starbuck? | 

As part of the ongoing effort to attract employer's who will help ease the well documented jobs to housing imbalance, the City of Elk Grove will be adding one staff member to its economic development department. 

In a posting on the City's website, the EDD has opened up the application process for that department's third staff member. The newly created full-time economic development specialist position will offer an annual salary range of $59,985 to $80,386 depending on experience plus a rich benefits package. 

Curiously, the new position, which was approved by the Elk Grove City Council as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget, increases the size of a discretionary department that has little, if nothing, to show for in terms of landing major employers. 

When the City of Elk Grove discontinued its previous public-private agreement with the Economic Development Corporation over six years ago, it ended a period of unfulfilled promises made by its board of director and executive director Steve Czarnecki. The EDC, which received $750,000 in taxpayer money, pledged to bring 1,500 jobs to the city when they started in 2007, but by 2011 only new 70 jobs could be attributed to its efforts.

Obviously, the EDC efforts were thwarted in part by the Great Recession and the housing collapse, which was particularly hard on Elk Grove homeowners. Aside from that, the EDC failed to submit required annual audits over a four year period to the City and often appeared rudderless.

Following the collapse of that public-private partnership, the Elk Grove City Council decided to go in-house with their economic development director. In October 2011 the City hired Randy Starbuck, who came to Elk Grove from Pittsburg, Calif. where he specialized in securing redevelopment money.  

Unfortunately for the City, which started its redevelopment agency about two years earlier, Gov. Jerry Brown killed state funding for local agencies just as Starbuck was hired. The original redevelopment area included older parts of Elk Grove to the immediate east of Highway 99 and all the special planning area which now includes the site of the proposed Wilton Rancheria casino and Outlet Collection at Elk Grove.

With State funding no longer available to pursue, Starbuck's efforts shifted. Much of the work Starbuck reported back to the City Council included attending retailer and shopping center conventions in Las Vegas. 

As such, Starbuck focused his efforts on recruiting retailers to the unfinished Outlet Collection at Elk Grove, which at that time was in its second incarnation as the Elk Grove Promenade. Much like the EDC that preceded him, Starbuck had nothing significant to show for his work and was terminated just short of being on the job for three years.  

Following the Starbuck era, the City decided to continue its pursuit of major employers and hired its current economic development director Darrell Doan in April 2015. Doan who came to Elk Grove by way of a one-year stint in Alameda, Calif., where he poached a San Jose manufacturer for relocation. 

Like Starbuck, Doan's efforts to recruit a major employer to Elk Grove have gone unfulfilled. The one supposed major score announced in March 2016 by former Mayor Gary Davis, the recruitment of Fremont, Calif.-based NRC Manufacturing, has collapsed.

Now with over two years of the Doan era in the books, Elk Grove's economic development efforts are as flat as an open beer left out overnight. It cannot be over emphasized that in addition to their lack of achievements, the economic development department recently executed a $50,000 contract with Birmingham, Ala.-based Retail Strategies to help recruit retailers to Elk Grove.

So after almost six years of in-house economic development activities, the City continues to make no significant progress in bringing those all elusive, high paying jobs to Elk Grove. While Doan and the City will invariably point to the 2,000 jobs that will accompany the proposed Wilton Rancheria casino, those jobs are not attributed to Doan or his staff.

Ironically, as public documents have shown, the idea for locating the casino on the site of the unfinished Outlet Collection at Elk Grove, dates to at least late December 2012. That was when former Elk Grove Assistant City Manager Becky Craig emailed the shopping center's owner, the Howard Hughes Corporation, pitching the idea of the casino. When and if the casino gets built, Starbuck might have the last laugh.

Doan has lasted over two years during which time he hired an outside economic development consultant and expanded his department by 33-percent. Nonetheless, he has scored no noteworthy victories in the recruitment of high paying employers to Elk Grove. 

So barring some unexpected announcement of the recruitment of a major company with hundreds of high-paying jobs, will Doan go the way of Starbuck in another year or so? Conversely, will the City Council keep him around if for no other reason for political cover for their ongoing economic development failures?



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D.J. Blutarsky said...

It's all window dressing. Keeping a cadre of economic development "experts" in-house is like living in the ritzy neighborhood on the other side of town: you don't dare mow your own lawn, clean your own pool, or clean your own house. What would the neighbors think!

Well, the same is true of in-house economic development staff. What would the big fish think of Elk Grove if they contracted out and other cities like Roseville and Sacramento have their own staff. It would be like, is Elk Grove poor or something?

To can one economic development director is to be seen as having high standards that were not met. To can a second one would invite doubts about the competency of the big chiefs who hired him.

Nope, for status, show, and political cover, our boy stays and the beefing up of the department means Elk Grove is "open for business" and needs more staffing up. Quick, get that press release out!

Unknown said...

Let me ask this: if a large employer wanted to come here, where would they locate? Sorry. but we don't currently have the land available for large employers. The City's recent payment to start infrastructure in SEPA will allow for this development.

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