I was recently contacted by a Riverside County Economic Development official asking for my thoughts on how the cities in the county can help foster more independent retailers, especially restaurants, to open new locations. He indicated this is a “hot topic” amongst many of the city’s economic development departments. In response, I shared some of my ideas, and I also agreed to moderate a discussion on this subject with a group of economic development specialists at their November meeting.
In preparation, the following are some of my ideas but I would appreciate also hearing your input. Please email me your thoughts at [email protected] and let me know if I can use your name relative to your ideas.
Develop and Promote Marketing Strategies – Via my brokerage team, I have learned that most communities have numerous email lists, social media pages, and websites that can be utilized to promote a new business in town. This is enormously valuable and likely an underutilized resource. If a community could boast that they had a way to communicate with 50,000 local residents via email marketing, social media, and similar, this would be a huge advantage to a prospective tenant. The key is to not only have this capability, but then to market it to tenants that approach the city (whether via economic development or planning) as well as to the brokers and owners that have listings in the city.
Expedite/Eliminate/Waive the CUP Process – Over the past 20 years, more and more uses are subject to a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and the cost to obtain a CUP in most cities has increased substantially. This cost not only involves the fee to the city, but the details that must be provided in order to present to the City. How many potential businesses do you think are going to gamble $5,000 to $20,000 (or more) to find out if a city will accept their concept at a particular location? How about either reducing or eliminating the fee OR agree to refund the fee if the use is not approved.
Show Empathy – As a small business owner myself and one that has heard the stories from hundreds of others, encouraging municipal staffs to have empathy for the challenge and risk that each entrepreneur wants to take would be very helpful. So often the employees that are encountered have a “road block” type mentality vs a “guiding” mentality. They sometimes act as if the entrepreneur is the burden and forget they are in a position to “serve” and help them bring new business to the city.
Provide Atypical Office Hours – Many people who want to start a business, work normal business hours. How about providing early morning or Saturday hours that budding entrepreneurs can utilize outside of their normal work hours.
These are some ideas, but I am very much looking forward to meeting with the economic development officials and brainstorming with them on this topic. And, once again, here is your opportunity to share your ideas. Just email me at [email protected]. Assuming all goes well, I will publish a future blog summarizing the November meeting as well as the ideas readers submitted.