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Ask the Expert

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EDC's New Chief Plans to Focus on Local Businesses

Posted: October 18, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 18, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Holly Schroeder, CEO and President of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation

 

 Holly Schroeder assumed the role of CEO and President of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation on Sept. 9, following the departure of the nonprofit organization’s first CEO, Jonas Peterson.

A resident of Santa Clarita since 2005, Schroeder served as the CEO of the Building Industry Association’s Los Angeles and Ventura Chapter.

Briefly describe the mission of the SCVEDC.

SCHROEDER: The primary goal of the EDC is business attraction and business retention. That is, we encourage companies to locate their operations to the SCV, and support growth of the businesses that are already here.

What are your goals for the organization?

SCHROEDER: Continued growth of the job base is the next phase of maturation for this valley. We 0are a city that’s only 25 years old, and it’s been fast-growing and is going to continue to be fast-growing. A part of that bright future is a strong, growing job base.

The kinds of jobs people really want are the higher-paying jobs so they don’t have to commute outside the area. How do you plan to work on that end?

SCHROEDER: Higher-paying jobs lead the way, and then other service sector and support follow so we need to focus our effort on the higher-paying jobs.

We focus on a number of industry clusters – aerospace, digital media and entertainment, biomed, information technology, and advanced manufacturing – in addition to corporate jobs like Princess Cruises that’s already here, and the recent announcement of Sunkist moving their corporate offices here. These are very high quality jobs for our valley.

What are the top priorities in your mind, even though, having just begun, you most likely haven’t had any time to flush them out yet?

SCHROEDER: Our top priority is to continue and expand our marketing approach to let people know about the tremendous values that are present in the SCV. It’s a good business decision for a company to locate here.

Businesses locating and expanding have great opportunities for modern, state of the art buildings than in other areas in the region. In addition, we’re right on transportation corridors which can help with their logistics, plus we have a very high-quality, skilled work force that 0resides0 here. We want to get that word out.

Many people have misperceptions about the location of Santa Clarita, and we need to tell them to think as much in terms of time as 0in miles. It’s actually not that hard to get here; and even if it’s a couple more miles than some other business locations - it is a reverse commute for a lot of those executives and for many of their employees.

In practice, it’s probably easier to get here from downtown Los Angeles than it is to get to the Westside or Long Beach.

In addition, we will be increasing our efforts with our partners in economic development – those in the broker community who work with businesses looking to relocate or expand. We’ll also be more active in many of the regional organizations relating to our target industry. Growing our economy definitely takes a team effort.

Are the economic conferences and industry guide magazines the most effective means of achieving the goals of the EDC?

SCHROEDER: The economic development guides are part of telling our story, but they’re not the only tool for telling our story.

In addition to the important print materials, we also need to expand and grow our presence online and through social media, online marketing and advertising because that is a way we can more economically and consistently reach people. That’s increasingly where people are getting their information. We need a mix of tools.

The conferences and guides are part of an ongoing awareness campaign. Five years ago many in the film industry didn’t know where Santa Clarita was; now it is a frequent destination so it’s less of a problem. We need this same level of awareness in other business sectors. We want to let them know what kinds of industry clusters are already here.

It’s all part of getting the message out. There are strategic reasons and often efficiencies for businesses 0in the same industry cluster to locate near each other.

To get the word out about what types of businesses are here, and the wonderful work they are doing, a digital approach is going to be a high0 priority for me as we move forward in our next phase of marketing.

We want to build upon print marketing, but move into the digital as well.

What is the thought behind the business attraction campaign? Given the size and depth of the recession, the EDC has been fairly successful attracting some decent size companies to the SCV. But, those don’t represent immediate job gains for local residents.

SCHROEDER: You have to look at business relocation in the broader context. In some cases the people in those jobs already live here, so they see an immediate improvement in their quality of life when their company locates here. And for those that don’t live here, they might see how wonderful it is and decide to move here.

In the meantime, that business being located here brings many secondary economic benefits to the area. Companies will likely need services from other companies in the area, and their employees will enjoy 0the entertainment, food and other types of amenities in the SCV. So it’s not just 0that the job is located in the SCV, it’s that is causes an economic ripple effect.

And then of course over time those companies grow, and as they grow and expand they recruit their work force locally, which becomes an additional benefit for the valley and the people who live here. And as individuals move on with their 0 careers, it opens up more jobs 0for local residents0.

Has the EDC had a specific program for helping existing companies grow and create more jobs locally? What opportunity do you see in this arena?

SCHROEDER: The primary tool for local businesses has been the Enterprise Zone.

Unfortunately that is sunsetting at the end of the year. There will be a successor program, California Competes. It’s a tax credit that we don’t know much about yet but we will certainly be monitoring that.

There’s also AB106 a bill was passed and signed by the governor that allows the processing of Enterprise Zone vouchers to continue throughout calendar year 2014. You still have to do the hiring by Dec. 31, but if they have a qualified hire they can still get the credit processed in 2014, and use the credit for up to 5 years.

Okay, given that the Enterprise Zone is going to go away, what other kinds of support services does the EDC offer?

SCHROEDER: I’ll be launching a direct business outreach program here in the valley.

We’ll be going out and talking to companies that are already here, do small surveys with them on what is going well for them and what kinds of challenges they have, what are their prospects for growth and expansion – so that we can design successor programs that will serve our businesses the best.

We want to provide support to the businesses that are already here in those industry clusters, so we’ll be forming 0industry coalitions or leadership councils – bringing together the businesses in those industries to talk about the issues that are facing them; potentially bringing in speakers or actions that are relevant to their business.

Does the EDC have any specific goals, targets or programs relative to the cluster industries? What do the programs look like?

SCHROEDER: We conceptualize our leadership councils for the businesses that are here in SCV as a mechanism of significant support for the industry clusters.

In terms of business attraction we’ll be reaching out to businesses in those industry clusters and tailoring our message, maybe more so than we’ve we done in the past so we can be more precise in ou0r outreach.

What is the EDC’s geographic target? Is it San Fernando Valley, L.A. County and Ventura?

SCHROEDER: Those areas tend to be our focus because the businesses there who want to expand often can’t find the facilities that they need where they are simply because of land availability. They don’t have modern, state of the art buildings, in terms of ceiling heights, truck access, technology and physical size - all of which can really make a business more efficient. Land prices are better and we don’t have a gross receipts tax or a business tax here.

So there are a number of advantages that can make it a very good business decision for those companies, and in most cases a relocation doesn’t cause 0turnover of their employee base.

We’re an opportunity for them to expand and meet their needs so we can keep them in the state.

What about the technology sector? Studies have shown – and Apple, as an example, has shown – that companies in this sector have the potential to be key economic drivers in a region and strong job creators.

SCHROEDER: People don’t know what’s here. That’s part of 0our campaign to promote and explain all the good things that companies here are doing. We can help share their successes and be a force multiplier of that message to different audiences.

We have some amazing companies here that people don’t know about.

What attributes/strengths do you believe you are bringing to the EDC?

SCHROEDER: I think the reason the board selected me for this position is in large part because I’m a local resident and knowledgeable about the SCV. I clearly understand business, having run a non-profit (Building Industry Association), and I understand the activities, development, economic issues facing businesses. Also, knowing this valley and its relationship to the neighboring communities, knowing contacts, elected officials, and department contacts allows me to 0speak genuinely about this valley. I know what makes this valley different and unique compared to other areas.

I think the board expects me to be a strong spokesperson, reaching out to businesses that are here and to those that might locate here and send them a message about what the SCV has to offer.

This story published in the Santa Clarita Valley Business Journal which can be viewed at www.signalscv.com/scvbj/.

 

 

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