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Nonprofit promotes SCV business

Profile: Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation executive director sits down with us

Posted: November 20, 2010 7:40 p.m.
Updated: November 21, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

The Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation grew out of an economic development committee formed by the SCV Chamber of Commerce when more than 70 local business leaders initiated a number of activities designed to call attention to the favorable business climate in the valley.

Founded in 2009, the corporation hired Jonas Peterson as its first executive director last June.

Peterson previously served as the economic development director of Mohave County in Kingman, Ariz., and was named Arizona Economic Developer of the Year.

Peterson assumed his new duties after he relocated to Santa Clarita with his wife, Leah, and their two young sons Ethan and Lincoln.

The Signal sat down with Peterson for a question-and-answer session.

How is the SCVEDC different than the city’s economic development efforts?
The ED Corporation is different in a few ways. One, we can be a regional group so we can operate in a way that some of the other organizations that are geographically defined cannot.

So for example, the city is somewhat limited to developing economic interests within the city, but the SCVEDC can work regionally and involve unincorporated areas as well?
Yes.

How do you define regional?
Regional means both the incorporated and unincorporated areas of SCV — the city, county, business organizations, chambers, COC, Newhall Land and more. One of our goals is to connect the dots between all the entities.

So you’re talking about a common-denominator entity that allows all the organizations to partner and coordinate with each other?
Yes. Together we can leverage more resources. We’ll all be going in the same direction with a comprehensive strategy so that everyone’s efforts will be implemented.

Right now, the SCVEDC has very limited resources, and we want to make the best use of them by supporting each other’s efforts and not duplicating the efforts of others.

Did the SCVEDC recently submit another Enterprise Zone application?

Yes, we submitted one to extend it beyond just the city’s boundaries and make it valleywide, involving the unincorporated areas to extend the benefits of an EZ to all that do business in the valley. The EDC stepped up with resources to put the EZ application together, but city and county all came together in this effort, too. It was a good example of all of us working together.

What’s the time period for approval?
There isn’t a specific calendar where we’ll hear back by a certain date, but our general expectation is to hear back by the end of the year whether or not our EZ has been authorized.

Would SCVEDC lobby legislators for changes?
As a 503 nonprofit organization, we don’t lobby for specific legislation one way or another, but what we can do is serve as a catalyst organization, so if we think a situation needs to be changed, or a certain business incentive would be a good idea, we can do some analysis and advocate.

What initiatives are you working on?

We have quite a few in the works, but we’re also in the process of hiring some staff and solidifying board members. Right now, we’re identifying the 20 largest employers, and then we’ll target the 60 largest.

How do small businesses fit into targeting the largest employers?
Small business is the big picture in terms of the total number of jobs they create. But we want to start with the firms that have the largest economic impact, as it gives us the most valuable information to start with. Long term, we want to branch out our retention and assistance effort.

We’ll be going out to firms and providing them with assistance to keep their doors open. In the long run, we want to incorporate surveys, do more data gathering and hopefully, grow our local economy by understanding what’s here.

You mentioned the Dell Concept. What is that?
It brings suppliers to local businesses wherever feasible. We can target key industries that are located in the SCV, for example aerospace, and create a database of firms making large purchases.

Then we can go to suppliers and make a case for potentially relocating here because we can demonstrate we have a large client base for the suppliers in the SCV.

But we have to build up a database and track suppliers. That takes a lot of leg work.

What about operating capital for businesses?
At a basic level, we want to pull information together for our website that shows business owners what kind of financial resources are out there for small-business lending, venture capital, angel investors, etc., and become a resource.

Ultimately, we hope we can set up some kind of lending program or aggregate angel investors to have more of a presence in the valley, or some type of shared capital access program.

What is the industry analysis you’re working on?

We need to know what’s in our own backyard and what’s along the way before we can build a road map of where we’re going. For instance, we know we have an aerospace community here that would be a “strength” from an economic building perspective. But strong compared to what? Do we really have a competitive edge over other communities?

We need to know. So the industry analysis will identify niche markets and key industries. We’ll identify our strengths and weaknesses so we can plan growth for the next five years.

You referred to exporting local funds? What do you mean?
For instance, there are leakages in our local economy every time a business misses out on taking advantage of conservation programs and pays higher utility fees. Payment on those higher fees typically goes outside of our own region. Whereas if we help businesses conserve and save money, that money would be available to be spent and invested back in the local community.

The city granted money initially: some outright and some that must be matched by other funds. How will the SCVEDC’s effort be funded long term?
Current contributions, for the most part, are set up as annual contributions. I think you’ll see a shift occur in the long run though. Although we want to keep the city, counties and public engaged, I think we have the most potential to build the private sector and grow through those means.

We’re at the start-up phase, organizing different levels of investors, and we want to look at how we can add value to those investors as well.

How do board members contribute?

Currently, each member of the board of directors donates roughly $6,250 annually. Executive-committee members contribute the equivalent of $25,000. Our organization is a true public-private partnership, whereby we are able to enhance public funding with contributions from the private sector investments.

What can residents expect to see of the SCVEDC effort?
We’ll be very activity-based for the next six months, putting programs together and getting them up and running. Then we’ll transition to more performance-based activity using economic indicators as measurements, with some analysis behind the numbers for interpretation.

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