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Bill Kennedy: Enterprise zone a gift for our valley

Right Here Right Now

Posted: December 23, 2010 8:56 p.m.
Updated: December 24, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

Merry Christmas, all! 

Cathy and I are in Fort Collins, Colo., where we are sharing this wondrous season with our elder daughter, Laura, her husband, Jerry, and our delightful grandsons Dylan and Lucas. Time with them constitutes an early Christmas present for us.

While counting my blessings, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the familial nature of our community and the early Christmas present it, too, received.

Last Wednesday, the California Department of Housing and Community Development announced the valley will be awarded conditional approval of an expanded economic enterprise zone in 2011 that will combine the city’s existing zone with selected contiguous areas in the unincorporated areas of the valley. 

We should rejoice because the economic impact of this “gift” for the Santa Clarita Valley will amount to hundreds of millions of dollars over the expected life of the program, which is 15 years. 

The numbers are easy to derive. In the nearly four years since about 8,600 acres within the city of Santa Clarita were designated an enterprise zone, we have enjoyed some $70  million in economic benefit.

Under the new designation, the city will gain a four-year extension of benefits until 2026 and nearly 6,000 acres located in the adjacent unincorporated areas of the county will become eligible for benefits.

This accomplishment would not have been possible were it not for the positive attitude and cooperative spirit that exist within our community.

Those traits were in abundance as the community joined forces to overcome the many challenges confronting our quest.

First, the state had only two enterprise zones to award. Undeterred by the apparent long odds and buoyed by confidence in our local talent, the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation agreed to support such an application in the interest of improving the economic vitality of our valley.

The second challenge was the timing of the application. In June, local authorities became aware that the state would entertain the notion of a joint county-city application, leaving fewer than 90 days to complete the application by the mid-September deadline for submissions. This was a daunting task, given that the city’s original successful application for an enterprise zone was completed by a staff of some 30 working full or part-time for more than six months. 

The fast-track application was achieved when the SCVEDC, with the support of local benefactors, committed to providing more than $100,000 in resources to hire a professional services firm to assist in our management of the application process.  Using the city’s successful earlier application as a template further boosted our efforts, as did support from County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and City Manager Ken Pulskamp, who provided  talented, accomplished staffers who worked tirelessly to provide detailed exhibits on a compressed timeframe.

However, getting the application on time was only a small part of the process. Its real merit was in the quality. Some of the key factors considered by the state included the ability of local government to manage a successful enterprise zone, the merits of local commercial and industrial expansion and attraction plans, availability of financial assistance and other incentives, and the viability of local capital improvement plans, among others. In these areas, the reputation, competence and cooperative spirit were key elements to a winning application. 

The city enjoys the reputation of having the best-managed enterprise zone of 42 in the state, and the prospect of expanding that influence further to benefit the county was certainly helpful to our cause. The close, cooperative nature of the city and county as embodied by the One Valley, One Vision plan and the prospect of coordinated capital improvements also had to be reassuring to the reviewers.

Further, the vast network of business-friendly support available in our valley helped carry the day. Numerous businesses and local financial institutions wrote letters of support indicating specific benefits they were prepared to provide exclusively to enterprise zone companies. Other institutions demonstrating support included the College of the Canyons, the Valley Industry Association and the Chamber of Commerce.  

Landing the expanded enterprise zone for the Santa Clarita Valley was truly a total community effort. The real gift for us this joyous season is represented not in the many tangible benefits that will result, but in the caring concern and “can-do” attitude that holds this community together like no other. 

That is the magic that makes our valley such a great place to live, …Right Here, Right Now! 

Bill Kennedy lives in Valencia and is a principal in Wingspan Business Consulting, chairman of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp., and planning commissioner. His column reflects his views and not necessarily those of these organizations or those of The Signal. Contact him at wkennedy@wingspanbusiness.com.

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