Working together to create a thriving Santa Ana
Small business owners are the catalysts for real change and broad community empowerment. These are some of Katz’s ideas to help drive economic recovery during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Santa Ana Needs to Polish Its Story – Then, We Need to Tell the Story.
Our City in partnership with our business community must develop an agreed-upon story and then align our events and marketing around that story. City leaders and our citizens must be trained to champion that story.
The story must be unique. We are not looking to become a Silicon Valley or an Irvine. But nor should we want to. Beneath the surface, struggling to emerge, is Santa Ana’s own unique story. We need to create a culture that businesses want to be a part of. We should endeavor to be the best Santa Ana that we can be. And, then, we must tell the world who we are.
2. We need to create a business ecosystem.
Santa Ana suffers from a weak image among the regional business sector which reflects on a poorly motivated business community. We need to develop a better business ecosystem where networking is easy. Where matching capital and entrepreneurs is facile.
3. Identify and keep those companies that get their revenue from outside our community.
The economics of the City will stagnate if only the same dollar circulates. We need to focus on attracting and keeping companies the generate dollars from outside the City. The ideas listed on this page will help. However, we also need to partner with SAUSD to drive a better story about Santa Ana’s public education system. We need to support neighborhoods and the SAPD to make our City safer. We need to work with developers and residents to revitalize our City’s structures to augment its charm and character highlighting our City’s uniqueness.
4. Workshops for Established Owners
Any business will tell you that the cost of bringing in a new customer exceeds the cost of retaining a current customer. Likewise, our City needs to value and be responsive to the needs of businesses who long ago decided to make Santa Ana their principal place of business.
An existing business concierge program would be developed to ensure that the City remains engaged with this category of business to ensure that their needs are being met. One DTSA business owner told me about the miserable experience he had engaging with the City in his attempt to expand his operation. Due to the inexplicable delays, he lost the opportunity to expand which ultimately lead to the failure of the entire operation. We can’t let this happen.
In addition, business owners and entrepreneurs need a roadmap – a business plan that will help them set measurable goals and objectives. Our Existing Business Concierge will sponsor workshops to facilitate the development of structured plans.
On the first day of Phase 3 of the COVID Crisis, when restaurants were permitted to expand their operations, I had an interesting conversation with Jeff Jensen, the owner of Chapter One. He spoke to me about the importance of businesses pivoting in moments of crisis like we are currently experiencing. An Existing Business Concierge would facilitate workshops on the art and science of pivoting to be able adjust a business plan to meet the current business environment. The Frida represents a great example. The doors shut on their screens, the Frida took its business outside with re-imagined drive-in theaters. It is not only business owners who suffer when they fail to pivot. Our business community loses valuable members.
5. Help promising startup companies – New Business Concierge
This department would serve entrepreneurs and small business owners in the early stage of a start-up business’s life cycle. We should aim to provide best-in-class coaching, in-demand services, and relevant programs to foster the success of small businesses.
Through quality programming, personalized one-on-one coaching, and networking opportunities that build valuable business relationships, we could provide the tools needed for start-ups to successfully navigate their business journeys.
6. Modernize the City’s Interface with Businesses
For a city in Santa Ana’s current economic state, we should be rolling out the red carpet for any business that wants to invest in our community by laying down its roots within our City’s boundaries. Instead, it is challenging, costly, and slow at every step in the process. We need to bring our City’s business infrastructure into the 21st Century making our interface with businesses friendly, expedient, and easy.
7. Develop a small Innovation Economy – but don’t forget the Trade & Skills Economy.
The hallmark of thriving regions is rooted in an innovation economy – jobs generated in fields that require skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). These jobs provide a diversity of other important professions in the arts and humanities.
If Santa Ana is going to accelerate its economic redevelopment, it must have some focus on the innovation industries. Manufacturing jobs has a multiplier of creating 1.6 additional new jobs. Innovation jobs have a multiplier of five additional jobs (three of which are service jobs and two that are high-paying professional jobs).
Yet, STEM industries should not be our only focus. A young adult leaving high school today is entering one of the toughest labor markets in recent history. But there is opportunity out there. If you have a skill that is in demand, you will be in demand like never before. Currently, there is a reinvigorated and enthusiasm around the basics of simply learning a trade that is absolutely in demand – of being essential. Grown-ups are finally having a serious conversation about what constitutes a good job. Right now, if you are a tradesman with a good work ethic, high paying jobs await you. For a city filled with aging, historic homes, we need these artisans more than ever.
8. Continue to grow a vibrant and unique downtown.
Santa Ana, like most cities, will benefit from a vibrant downtown. It creates tax dollars and attracts/keeps young talent in the city which in turn attracts businesses. Thanks to courageous business owners, visionary developers and the work of Santa Ana, DTSA has seen a rebirth during the last 10 years. We need to continue and augment programming that brings people to downtown on a regular basis. We have developed a budding art scene. Katz envisions growing the arts and incorporating music making Santa Ana the Austin and Nashville of Southern California.
Katz believes that if there is a place in Santa Ana that can handle – and needs – high density “luxury” residential spaces, it is DTSA; so that retail and entertainment can do better. However, the key is to offer a variety of residential options. When an economy suffers a downturn, non-residents will stop coming. This risk can be managed if customers live nearby.
9. Nurture Relationships with Universities
Santa Ana is fortunate to have Santa Ana Community College. Chapman is a few miles away. UCI and CSUF are in close proximity. Katz believes that developing a strong and visible relationship with these universities will offer Santa Ana greater stability. These colleges provide intellectual capital (students and professors) which often turn out entrepreneurs. Strong cooperation among universities, government and the private sector is critical to the emerging tech and business service corridor developing outside Santa Ana such as in the Texas cities of Austin and San Antonio.
10. Anti-Vacancy Ordinance
When commercial buildings stay vacant, their declining status leads to blight, discourages economic development, diminishes property values, and can act as fire hazards and magnets for crime. We all felt the devastation caused by the massive fire which tore through the historic building, on May 7, 2020, which once housed a church built in 1911.
Some vacant commercial property owners use their buildings for storage, in the same way a residential neighbor might use their broken car or RV for storage. In many cases, the building is “under-utilized,” in that it does not economically perform as a commercial structure would in generating income for the business/property owner and gross receipts tax (GRT) for the local government.
11. Non-Discriminatory Growth for all Santaneros with Supportive Affordable Housing
Inclusive development considers whether development progress is sufficiently widespread for the majority of a population to benefit. A nondiscriminatory, inclusive, and integrated development approach ensures that all people (including those who face discrimination and thus may have limited access to our City’s benefits, legal protections, or social participation) are fully included and can actively participate in and benefit from development processes and activities.
On the supply side, it means not just building more housing but focusing on much-needed affordable and workforce housing. On the demand side, it means boosting the incomes of blue-collar workers, low-paid service workers, and the truly disadvantaged by lifting local minimum wages, upgrading jobs, and providing housing vouchers where necessary.
12. Leverage Talent
It had always been thought the economic redevelopment was a process initiated by and driven by attracting new business to Santa Ana. It was the notion that talent followed jobs. However, there is empirical evidence that the reverse is also true: talent is a key driver of local economic development, whether measured by level of education or by highly skilled occupations. It is not a chicken-and-egg question. Talent, firms, and jobs reinforce one another in a valuable circle.
To attract talent, Santa Ana must deliberately make our city into a quality place for everyone. Focus on adding “amenities” by planting trees, creating parks, installing bike lanes, and using other strategies that make places more attractive. However, we must do this in a way that is attentive to uneven effects. This means pairing investment in less advantaged neighborhoods with housing and anti-dislocation strategies that ensure local residents remain in their homes.
13. Grow Talent
We cannot simply rely on attracting talent from outside Santa Ana. A long-term solution must focus on developing a strong “farm team” – growing an evergreen talent pool in our public schools and linking them to jobs in Santa Ana. It is Katz’s hope the SAUSD creates centers of excellence – science, technology, engineering, math, culinary, hospitality, and the trades — at each of our high schools to feed the businesses of tomorrow.
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