The Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp. is a public-private partnership focused on growing jobs in the Santa Clarita Valley. Economic development will be more important than ever going forward, and all of our partners will play a role in the recovery of our economy.
As we look ahead to the reopening of business, there are additional steps that our community — private sector and public sector together — can take to help the local economy recover. Here are eight ideas to be considered:
1) Focus on shopping local. We should launch and residents should support a Shop Local campaign that reminds everyone that buying local supports business owners and employees, many of whom are our neighbors. Business can emphasize what they are doing to protect the health and safety of workers and customers. The majority of this campaign should target SCV residents, but it should also recognize the unique shopping opportunities that can draw in people from outside the region, such as the Auto Center.
2) Filming is a major economic driver for the region, generating over $30 million in economic impact annually. Following industry guidance for safety, productions could begin filming, and as soon as it is allowed, the city should begin issuing film permits. This action should include outreach to the industry to make Santa Clarita stand out in an industry eager to produce new content.
3) As restaurants reopen for sit-down dining, their capacity will likely be limited to 25-50%. Why not temporarily allow restaurants to place tables on sidewalks, in the public right-of-way, and parking areas? Businesses will have great ideas on how to bring more employees back to work and increase the likelihood that they will survive. In Old Town Newhall, we could even close and allow use of Main Street. Tables should be spaced out, limiting crowds and adhering to public health guidelines. For those restaurants that cannot expand outdoor seating, we should find other locations for restaurant “pop-up locations” for carry away meals throughout the SCV.
4) The private sector and the public sector should collaborate to develop strategies on how to restore tourist and event activities that are consistent with health and safety guidelines. Hospitality and travel experts can bring knowledge of what is happening around the world that we can customize to what makes sense for the SCV.
5) The SCV has struggled over the years for fast, affordable internet in our business parks. Now that service is further strained by work-at-home practices. It has been a priority to solve this problem and the city has been upgrading the availability of fiber and broadband connections. As the demand for work-from-home and school-from-home practices increase, we need to accelerate these investments and broaden the scope.
6) As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, many companies will be rethinking their supply chains and looking to bring manufacturing back to the U.S., especially in the field of biotech. We should, through SCVEDC, identify new incentives that can entice these companies to land in the SCV and take advantage of our available industrial space and high-quality workforce.
7) People are likely to continue to work from home part or full time. Builders should rethink their designs to create workforce housing that is smaller and more affordable, and that comes with dedicated work-from-home offices. Office and industrial tenants are likely to have a portion of employees working from home and on staggered shifts, possibly reducing parking needs. As these trends take hold, our zoning and building codes need to align.
8) Looking to the long term, we need to be ready for redevelopment of key parcels in the core of the valley. For example, the Valencia Town Center area including the mall is likely to change as the retail sector and malls continue their transformation. We should be positioned for quick action and redevelopment. Other central properties should be zoned so that investors and developers don’t experience unnecessary delays in the process to get approved.
Many times over the past two months we have heard and said the phrase “we are all in this together.” As we start re-opening the economy and easing the Safer-at-Home orders, that isn’t going to change. It will take all of us, working together, to restore the SCV economy. But I know this community, from its civic leadership to its private sector to its individual residents, is up to the task.
Holly Schroeder is president and CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp.