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September 10, 2008 > Union City outlines economic development activities

Union City outlines economic development activities

By Simon Wong

Union City's Economic and Community Development Department delivered an update on its economic development activities to the Planning Commission on September 4.

Economic development has focused on three elements - business retention, development and recruitment - over the past four years.

Senior members of the City's management team, Council and Economic and Community Development Department undertake formal site visits to meet business owners and managers. The company's strategic business plan (stating current needs, issues, expansion plans and other future plans) is usually discussed. One-on-one site visit follow-up meetings are an opportunity for the City to see if the corporate "road map" is still in place or if circumstances have changed. Such visits establish good communication and enable the City to assist local companies.

Industrial Roundtables, a Business Ambassador Program and Business Permit Guide also facilitate and promote retention.

A Workforce Development Program and an E-Newsletter are works-in-progress. The latter is being developed in response to the business community's wish to be kept informed of what is happening within the City. Such a circular is also useful for companies that have just arrived or are considering relocating to Union City.

"Business development programs focus on expansion and growth opportunities for the small business community," explained Christine Friday. "We have a Procurement Opportunities Guide, The Small Business Financial Resource Guide and hold Employer Breakfast Meetings."

The latter afford discussion about the human capital of the company, employer-employee relations, HR policies, employment law and other issues to ensure that the companies comply with California statutes.

"We've expanded our online business portal. We are planning a Shop Union City Campaign which will be based at Union Landing. We also hold miscellaneous Small Business Seminars to teach businesses how to create a business plan and how to obtain funding from banks or alternative resources. There is a Certification Program for Small Business Enterprise. We shall be holding the first workshop of our Government Contracting Opportunities Program on September 18," added Ms Friday.

The City's growth might be constrained by limited land capacity but there is vacant land and buildings offering prime space that can be occupied by businesses that will benefit the community economically. Considerable energy is directed toward recruitment.

"We organize Venture Capital Roundtables, produce an Annual Multi-Dimensional Marketing Publication and hold an Annual Bioscience Symposium, which is coming on October 2. We are implementing Investor Roundtables the first of which is scheduled for late October 2008. We are compiling a Target Prospect List and Supplier Chain Prospects to target specific types of companies and associated suppliers. This approach will also attract the desired company's service providers to Union City.

"We have been very involved with Silicon Valley events, especially with the Venture Capital Roundtables. Our efforts have been rewarded. As recently as eight months ago, we welcomed a new biotech company to the west side of the City. They also received $10 million in funding when they relocated. We are focusing on biotech, high-tech start-ups.

"A challenge we face is to maintain the current businesses that we have and to accommodate the expansion plans of new arrivals. We have a couple of life-science industry businesses that are currently expanding; one will double in size from three hundred to six hundred employees. The Inter-modal Station District is at the top of their list; the alternative is to remain where they are now and expand as far as is possible. We spend a lot of energy maintaining the current business space and trying to find creative solutions for more space so that they can expand here.

"Another biotech company is expanding by 10,000 sq. ft. in the Dell Business Park with the City's help. We definitely are focusing on those industries. A computer logistics manufacturer has increased its workforce from sixty-two employees to two hundred, one year after relocating to Union City.

"Our past recruitment efforts have been more global and marketing was more widespread. Now we are courting a narrower range of industries and handpicking businesses based on what we have available. We now have the time to do that. The past four years have really focused on retention; we had a handful of businesses expand. Another manufacturing company expanded into another location and now has two hundred employees, too. These are just a few examples," concluded Christine Friday.

The Economic and Community Development Department strives to integrate the business' perspective with municipal policies and operations. Staff work closely with Planning and other departments to attain the highest land development standards for infill purposes as embodied by the City's General Plan.

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