The Economic Development team recently sat down with California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) Regional Business Development Specialist Toni Gomez to discuss how GO-Biz supports local economic development efforts.
How does GO-BIZ’s economic development assistance strengthen cities?
Every community has its opportunities, challenges and priorities. When it comes to economic development, GO-Biz’s job is to receive opportunities, talk to businesses who are looking to expand and help them identify communities that are well-aligned with what they’re trying to do. For example, if there is an agricultural business looking to plant roots in the Bay Area, we wouldn’t point them to San Jose but another city, like Davis, where there is a large agricultural community,
We have many opportunities to interface with different businesses, and many come from out of state or country. Our goal is to play matchmaker and help place a great business with a great community so that the business can sustain high-quality jobs. The better we know communities, the better we can match companies.
What should residents/those outside of the ‘business community’ know about economic development?
Residents and those outside the ‘business community’ should know there are limitations whenever new community spaces open up for lease. When you see an empty lot and it says “for lease,” residents might have high hopes about what will be placed in that lot. It’s important to understand that local governments are limited by zoning, the community’s General Plan and even public input. Usually, community leadership has a vision for the space, and any incoming businesses must align with that vision.
GO-Biz’s job is to steer businesses in the right direction so that they land in communities that are ready to receive them.
How does local economic development work together with state-level economic development efforts?
GO-Biz has a lot of business-centered programs—more than 50 in the California Business Investment Guide. I help businesses navigate those incentive programs and choose the ones that best align with their initiatives. The California Competes Tax Credit, which is an income tax credit available to businesses who want to relocate, stay or grow in California, is one program that several businesses have taken advantage of in the past. Many businesses we work with have received tax incentives in order to add jobs and one is even on track to add 86 employees by this year. We’re proud of the opportunity to create great job opportunities at the local level.
GO-Biz also provides site selection services, where we identify which communities a business is interested in and then reach out to county/city partners with the request. The process is very much directed by the business, and we would then let them know which communities would be good matches.
Cities may also use this mapping tool to see how they are performing at a statewide context. On the other hand, businesses may use the resource to filter out cities to see what would align with them regionally.
How does GO-Biz support different regions?
Sometimes, we’ll speak with a business from out of state or country that is specifically interested in targeting Silicon Valley. Because Silicon Valley is such a well known area internationally, it makes sense that these businesses would choose the location as their first option.
In these kinds of cases, we like to point out different places in the region and raise them as possibilities. We want all regions to rise, not just certain regions that are well known.
What is GO-Biz’s most popular service? What is GO-Biz’s most underrated service?
GO-Biz’s most popular service is its Business Incentive Navigation, which helps tailor incentives to businesses’ needs. Because the California Business Investment Guide features more than 50 incentives, it can be overwhelming to determine which ones you actually need. For this service, businesses would set up a phone call with me, and I’d walk them through the incentives that best fit their needs.
I’d say the most underrated service is the Utility Economic Development Rate Program (UEDRP) through Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). This service provides commercial or industrial customers with a discount of 12%, 18% or 25% on the majority of their electric costs for five years. This service is good for small businesses, larger companies thinking about leaving the state or businesses seeking to expand and move cities. Overall, the service helps businesses stay grounded.
Businesses can also take advantage of GO-Biz’s Permit & Regulatory Assistance—helping provide all the information businesses need about how permitting works and how to manage project timelines. In addition, our office has specialists who can help businesses that are experiencing long wait times with their permits. We’re happy to be the third party that reaches in to help the permit process move forward.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a local business owner in Napa?
I’d say that local business owners need to understand the next generation of workers coming in and what a good job looks like in 2023. Take time to understand the next generation’s strengths and the potential challenges they could face. There are a lot of conversations about what the incoming workforce looks like and how to attract great talent, so it’s important to do deep research on those topics.
I would also encourage small businesses to pay attention to what’s happening at the federal level. Businesses can always access the California Grants Portal to see if they qualify for funding. There are a lot of small business opportunities embedded in these programs, so do your best to stay up-to-date.