By Sarah Macdonald
“What can be a lengthy permit process was made easier by the wonderful employees in the planning, fire and building departments,” said Lisa Profeta, facilities manager at Cliniqa in San Marcos.
The city has always embraced entrepreneurship because it drives a high quality of life—but it took center stage in 2012 when California dissolved redevelopment agencies, which took a toll on local business growth. Coupled with the recession, San Marcos saw a need to be more proactive in its economic development.
“City Council quickly realized we needed to focus our energy there if we wanted to remain a thriving, leading city,” said City Manager Jack Griffin. “Given that, City Council created a vision for a more business-friendly San Marcos.”
That vision began to take shape in 2015, when the city’s first economic development division was created. Since then, significant progress has been made, including the hire of an economic development manager and the launch of the San Marcos Business Walk Program, a twice-a-year event where volunteers collect feedback about the challenges facing local commerce.
Staff has also worked to cut a lot of red tape from the development approval process—everything from making it easier to navigate the land entitlement process, to bolstering city and private-sector collaboration on California Environmental Quality Act document preparation, to a City of San Marcos and Building Industry Association pilot project that is under development to allow for digital submission of project plans to save money on construction document printing costs, which can run $20,000 to $70,000 per on a typical subdivision during the entirety of the development approval process.”
“The city development services team, particularly planning staff, are constantly working with the city’s economic development manager to understand the needs of existing and prospective businesses,” said Director of Development Services Dahvia Lynch. “Planning and economic development go hand in hand and our collaboration is crucial to our improvements, which are a work in progress.”
In fact, staff still sees plenty of room for improvements. For example, they are working to give business owners more opportunities to save time or money by streamlining and more clearly defining the permitting process. There are also plans to standardize more reference materials for the permitting process, and to make more resources available online for business owners.
“Ideally, we would love to empower more business owners with the knowledge and resources they need,” Lynch said.
In that vein, city staff has also started to educate business owners about any benefits that they may qualify for. For example, Wholesale Shade was awarded a $500,000 California Competes Tax Credit, which Founder and CEO Patrick Howe learned about through the bi-monthly Council Business Visits. As part of the credit, the company intends to create 26 jobs over the next five years.
The Council Business Visits also led Cliniqa to apply, resulting in a $350,000 tax credit, which the company plans to use to create 24 jobs over the next five years. Economic Development Manager Tess Radmill and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation worked closely with the two companies—along with other San Marcos businesses that hope to receive the credit in the future—to simplify the application process.
“Most business owners I know are focused on the daily challenges of keeping their doors open and are not experts at regulations or government programs,” Howe explained. “Knowing that the City of San Marcos is a partner in the success of our business is reassuring.”
Radmill says that’s precisely how she hopes the business community views the city: a partner in their success.
“We’re working to ensure our local businesses are empowered to reach their full potential because their success is part of what drives the high quality of life we all enjoy here in San Marcos,” she said.
To learn more about the city’s economic development efforts, contact Economic Development Manager Tess Radmill at email@example.com.
Sarah Macdonald is the communications officer for the City of San Marcos.