Published February 22, 2005
Volume 13, Number 2

Pleasanton's Economic Vitality Strategic Plan Grows and Changes to Reflect New Ideas, Strategies

Pamela Ott
Pamela Ott, City of Pleasanton Economic Development Department.

Economic Vitality. Those words may bring to mind a variety of images: new businesses being created, productive employees at their computers, or the rich spectrum of goods and services available in a strong economic community. In each of those images, the wheels of commerce are in motion.

Like any moving vehicle, however, a community’s economic engine must be both maintained and directed. In a community like Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley, that direction is aimed towards an increased quality of life. In short, how can economic development be managed in order to benefit everyone who lives here?

The City of Pleasanton has a number of departments that interact with business, but none is focused on that goal so much as the Economic Development Department. Led by manager Pamela Ott, the department focuses not only on attracting new businesses to Pleasanton but also providing existing businesses with the information they need to interact efficiently with the local government.

Much of the department’s work is outlined in Pleasanton’s Economic Vitality Strategic Plan, a document that outlines a simple goal: to provide a positive business climate and a stable economic base for business growth and prosperity, along with the provision of goods, services, and facilities the community expects. This document, which is revised every three years, also serves as a guide for the Economic Vitality Committee, a group of local business people from different market segments who are appointed by the City Council to serve the city as advisors. Together, the Pleasanton Economic Vitality Committee assesses the City’s business climate, reviews issues that may impact it, and offers suggestions and recommendations to the City Council in order to maintain a strong local economy.

While the current Economic Vitality Strategic Plan was written in 2003 and is scheduled for revisions in 2006-2007, there have been a number of recent developments that have changed how the plan is being implemented. Details of these changes follow, along with an overview of the Plan.

Purpose and Mission
Economic development, in terms of increasing goods, services, and transactions, is not an end unto itself, but is a means to an end. The fundamental purpose of economic development is to enhance the quality of life in the community. To that end, economic development cannot be separated from other programs, services, and projects that impact the community. However, an increase in production contributes to quality of life in several important ways: it increases the number of jobs, it leads to growth in the amount of goods and services available to residents and employees, and it provides the necessary resources for local government to meet its responsibilities.

Pleasanton, the “City of Planned Progress,” is committed to being one of the most prosperous and livable places in Northern California. Pleasanton plans for the future by addressing potential constraints before they become community issues. All of Pleasanton’s community members are welcomed into a cooperative planning process, including residents, businesses, employees, and even to Pleasanton’s neighbors. This has contributed to the positive relationship enjoyed by Tri-Valley cities that has unified the region to achieve common goals.

Pleasanton is a city that draws people because it is a safe and attractive place to live, work, visit, and do business. The City is distinguished by its commitment to foster a positive business environment, nurture its neighborhoods, actively participate with local schools and colleges, and maintain its high quality of life. Pleasanton is committed to being a viable, self-sustaining community that provides full-life opportunities in the areas of business, education, career, recreation, housing, and retirement.

The City is the quintessential “work place of the future” with quality business parks and a state-of-the-art infrastructure. The City has carefully planned to have the amenities and services that business needs to be successful and which drive business location decisions. With its strong city management, customer orientation, and distinguished public safety service, the City is positioned as the economic heart of the East Bay. The Pleasanton City staff and Economic Vitality Committee are joined by local stake-holder organizations to help attain the vision for Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley.

Pleasanton’s Economic Position
Pleasanton has many strengths in the economic development market. To remain competitive, it is important to build upon those strengths while realistically addressing challenges that can be directly controlled or influenced. As a background for developing the current Economic Vitality Strategic Plan, an employer survey was conducted, polling 110 businesses selected from target markets and key industry groups.The results identified the area’s strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of the business community. Identified as positives were factors including the region’s central Bay Area location; the variety and quality of housing; transportation access; a highly skilled and educated workforce; a diverse mix of businesses; and the area’s excellent schools and access to higher education. Challenges were identified as well, among them an insufficient amount of moderate, affordable, and senior housing; decreased development potential due to less available raw land; traffic congestion on freeways and local streets; additional streamlining needed within City’s development services; and a decrease in business-to-business commerce.

Pleasanton remains a highly desirable business location with many assets that make it competitive within the state and regional markets. Target markets for future growth include corporate headquarters, professional services, software, telecommunications, light manufacturing, and R & D, as well as sales offices for scientific/medical devices, computer equipment, and biomedical research.

Goals, Objectives, and Strategies
Pleasanton has a number of strategies in place to attain its goals and objectives. These strategies are intended to augment those that are already a part of the City’s economic development practices designed to lead Pleasanton to a more prosperous, vital community.

Goal 1 : The first goal is to maintain and promote Pleasanton’s diversified economic base while increasing revenue generated to the City. This is intended to be addressed by two objectives. The first is to develop a business retention and expansion program. The following strategies will be used to achieve that objective:

1. Conduct a cluster analysis and survey of local businesses to determine needs and identify programs and services that would benefit business retention and expansion
2. Anticipate and prepare to respond to issues of importance to key industries using the 2002 Business Survey results. To that end, a workforce profile needs to be developed (educational level, unemployment statistics, current pay ranges, etc.) to relate pay ranges to housing costs
3. Continue to work with the Cities of Livermore, Dublin, and San Ramon to support and promote the TriValleyJobs.com website
4. Develop a “Special Topics” series for businesses to help them learn about the City’s requirements and codes

The first strategy has been addressed as of late by the recently-formed Business Retention and Attraction subcommittee, which has been tasked with creating a specific framework for the City’s overall efforts in that area. “One of their suggestions is to create a city ombudsman for business, so that the business community knows that they have a go-to person or team here in place at the City that they can go to and get answers from,” says Ott. “Also, we have talked about ways to network, to get businesses together to communicate with our city staff and with our city council. We go on business visits periodically just to check in and say, ‘Are you doing well? What can we do for you or what can we do to support you?’ And then I think there’s the opportunity to do some broader networking events as well. There are all sorts of ideas that the subcommittee is coming up with and I think that they’ll create a set of recommendations or a program that will then go to Council for consideration.”

The second objective in maintaining and promoting Pleasanton’s diversified economic base is to attract businesses and industries that are compatible with the General Plan. The following strategies will be used to reach that goal:

1. Develop and implement an attraction and marketing program for targeted industries that would provide jobs to match Pleasanton’s workforce profile
2. Continue to upgrade the City’s web site, especially the economic development page’s functions 3. Improve the service delivery of the development services departments

Goal 2 : The second goal of the Strategic Plan is to increase business-to-business transactions within Pleasanton. The first objective to meet this goal will be to encourage local businesses to partner/purchase together by developing methods for businesses to connect with one another through an identification of needs, constraints, and desires for businesses-to-business transactions. The second objective to stimulate business-to-business transactions is to increase local businesses awareness of opportunities to do business with the City. This will be done through the coordination with the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce to build a plan to increase business understanding of opportunities and procedures to compete for City business.

The pursuit of this goal has also been enhanced recently by the creation of a Business-to-Business subcommittee, which Ott reports is already making progress. “One of their suggestions will be a business to business resource kit, which I think is pretty exciting. They have identified ways that we can add functionality to our web site, which will make it of greater use to both the business community and the general public. You can go now and look at all of our business licenses but it’s not particularly aesthetically and functionally pleasing, so the City of Pleasanton is currently working with a designer to redevelop our web site, which will be brought online probably in the middle of the summer. Anybody will be able to use the web site and find information about our businesses – here’s restaurants, here’s shopping, here it is in a more user-friendly format. That will encourage people to go straight to Pleasanton businesses and that’s coming out of the Business to Business Subcommittee, along with the resource kit.”

Goal 3 : The third goal is to increase the public’s awareness of the value of business to the community. The first objective in achieving this goal is to develop a public awareness plan that focuses on the benefits afforded the community by local business. This will be achieved by partnering with the Chamber of Commerce and the Pleasanton Downtown Association to promote the understanding of the value of business to the community and by continuing to sponsor and participate in the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Marketplace.

This goal is also the focus of a new subcommittee. “There are a lot of really creative ways that we can create the awareness in our residents that on an individual transaction level, you can have an impact here in supporting our community by supporting Pleasanton businesses and the people that run and work for them,” says Ott. “Ultimately, that comes full circle: By supporting local businesses we support the tax base here, which provides enough funding to give you the amenities that you love about this community. If we do a diagram, it would be a great big circle. It’s not a new message per se, but the exciting part is finding ways to share that with residents.”

Goal 4 : The fourth goal is an effort to reduce traffic congestion on city streets. The first objective is to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the total transportation network. This will be done by:

1. Determining the potential effectiveness of the Trip Reduction & Mobility Enhancement Task Force’s recommendations based on the random sample survey of the citywide commutes of residents and employees that has been conducted
2. Continuing to strengthen and expand the Rides to School Program as it supports General Plan Program 10.2, which is an effort to encourage limited elementary school enrollment size (up to 650 students) to maintain neighborhood character and promote more personalized education
3. Cooperating with local cities and transit agencies to expand subregional transit services

Being a large concern to Pleasanton businesses and residents, traffic must be addressed by two more objectives. The first is to increase employer participation in the Commendable Commutes Program. It is hoped that this will be attained by developing and implementing an aggressive marketing plan to increase membership. The third objective in reducing traffic congestion is to increase ACE ridership to Pleasanton by determining the optimum location for a permanent ACE station. In addition, coordinating a marketing plan with ACE that targets Pleasanton employees is a necessity.

Goal 5 : The fifth goal is intended ensure sufficient affordable and moderately priced housing for the local workforce, and the first objective in attaining that goal is to implement the General Plan Housing Element. The second objective is for the Economic Vitality Committee to work with the Housing Commission to cooperatively address housing issues that impact employer decisions to locate or expand within Pleasanton. The strategy used to achieve this objective is to have the Economic Vitality Committee meet with the Housing Commission to identify and develop methods to resolve issues that negatively impact job attraction, retention, and growth.

A recent development in this area was a January meeting between the two groups. “They realized that there was a lot of overlap in both the end results of what they wanted to see or in some of the topics that they discuss in terms of their effects on the entire community,” says Ott. “There is some interest on the part of both groups to take a step back, do some surveying of our community, and find out what we feel we need here in Pleasanton in terms of affordable housing. I think we’ll see more movement in bringing these two groups together, the Housing Commission and the Economic Vitality Committee, to jointly move forward in getting this survey out and getting the information back to City Hall – a Needs Assessment, if you will.”

The third objective in ensuring sufficient affordable and moderately priced housing is to expand the city’s Below Market Rental Program by renegotiating existing municipally-funded rental agreements. The final objective in the housing category is to increase the amount of market-rate housing available downtown by encouraging the creation of mixed-use projects which incorporate both housing and retail elements.

The Future
Looking to the future, the Economic Vitality Committee and Economic Development Manager will continue to strive to keep the Strategic Plan up to date and keep the city on track to grow and prosper. For more information on how your business can get involved in the economic development of Pleasanton or to discuss the current Economic Plan, contact Pamela Ott, Economic Development manager for the City of Pleasanton, at (925) 931-5040. Additional information on doing business in Pleasanton can be found at http://ci.pleasanton.ca.us/business.html.


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