Economic commission approves new strategy
by Brooke Borba | Patterson Irrigator
May 23, 2013 | 1862 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The city’s Economic Development Commission gave a unanimous thumbs up to a proposed citywide economic development strategy at its regular meeting Thursday, May 16.

The plan, which recommended increased workforce training, a marketing program to promote Patterson’s assets and hiring a new city economic development officer, will go before the City Council for approval in late June or early July.

If approved, the city may work with the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance, Patterson Joint Unified School District and Yosemite Community College District to create a cost analysis for implementing workforce training programs.

Former interim city manager and consultant Jim Reese drafted the economic plan, which includes a background report that showcases the city’s demographics, finances and available development sites.

His recommendations included developing a marketing program to promote, target and expand business operations in Patterson. The proposal suggests conducting a new survey for area residents to determine what businesses they would like to see locally.

It also calls for reducing tax regulations on local businesses by working with state and federal delegates to foster economic development.

The plan further urges the city to make local businesses aware of Small Business Administration loan programs and assistance through the local Small Business Development Center run through the Alliance. The goal is to ensure that Patterson businesses are aware of statewide and federal level incentives, according to Reese’s study.

In addition, the plan also indicated the city would benefit by hiring a new staff member for the city manager’s office to serve as a chief economic development contact.

Reese said last week that nearby Turlock’s economic development base could serve as a model for Patterson in the years ahead. His report recommended that Patterson take a close look at how Turlock has offered incentives to businesses to encourage downtown revitalization.

In the meantime, his report indicated that Patterson already has several strengths that could attract new business. Those include having business park land near the Interstate 5 corridor and available industry sites at affordable prices. The city is also primed to benefit from a boost in revenues, according to the study. That’s largely because of sales tax money that will come from Amazon.com’s future fulfillment center off of Park Center Drive after it opens this fall, city officials have said in the past.

The report’s top critiques of Patterson focused on the lack of job opportunities for ill-qualified residents, the relatively expensive cost of doing business in California and Patterson’s lack of water and sewer capacity compared with other cities.

The city’s challenges also include an unemployment rate that was nearly twice the statewide average in 2010 at 23.5 percent. In addition, Patterson has a significant jobs-to-housing imbalance, with only .75 jobs for every home, according to most recent demographic figures available in 2006. Patterson also lags behind in terms of educational attainment, with only 66.6 percent of local residents age 25 and up graduating from high school in 2010, compared with 75.9 percent countywide and 80.7 percent in the state as a whole.

Despite the city’s challenges, the reported noted that residents view economic development as a major priority. He noted that a survey conducted by the city Ad-Hoc Budget Committee in 2010 claimed that more than 45 percent of respondents felt that economic development was among the top three issues facing the city.

“The most dramatic response in this survey is that 60 percent of the respondents felt that the best way to address budget issues is to ‘Market Patterson to Attract Business,’” Reese’s report stated.

City officials last week expressed optimism about Reese’s proposed economic strategy while discussing the plan at the Economic Strategic Commission meeting.

“We’ve got all the ideas, the plans, everything,” City Manager Rod Butler said. “Now we’ve got to get a game plan to implement this.”

Commissioners wanted to see the plan move forward and felt the City Council would have no objection to the proposed strategies.

“I’m confident this plan will be implemented by next year,” Commissioner Denise Sperle said.

Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24 or brooke@pattersonirrigator.com.

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