Economic Development Manager
City of Carlsbad
Five months into a new position would usually mean feet are on the ground, you probably know where the essential office amenities – like the coffee machine, copier, and supply rooms – are located, the majority of coworkers are becoming a familiar sight, and you are getting to know your work pretty well.
For this economic developer, the first 150 days have been a little bit different. Starting a new position during a pandemic has meant I still have no idea where the coffee machine or copier are. I haven’t met most of the colleagues I work with in person, but I can tell you every single person I’ve worked with at the city has been a champion for its businesses and residents. My feet hit the ground pretty quickly and due to the nature of the work, it was a sprint from the get-go.
Like running track, I can tell you a sprint is a great way to get going. One foot in front of the other, it’s reacting to the environment around you and moving as quickly as possible to get to where you need to be. In my case, it was evaluating the current economic circumstances – a public health emergency, a stay-at-home order, a business shutdown, and ever-changing industry guidance – and developing a suite of programs and services to address them.
Over the summer, my department, the Office of Innovation + Economic Development launched a survey of Carlsbad businesses. We needed to understand the most crucial pain points, which ended up being access to capital, lack of customers and an uncertain operating environment. From there, we deployed the Carlsbad Business Loan Program (carlsbadca.gov/loan) which provides financial relief for small businesses. We also established a relationship with the National Conflict Resolution Center to help mediate landlord/tenant disputes due to COVID-19.
As things began to open back up and with some visitors still making their way to Carlsbad, we made it easier for businesses to activate outdoor space and removed the associated fees to do so. We visited every hotel in the city to provide safety messaging and materials for visitors to Carlsbad. Along with the Chamber and Carlsbad Village Association, we launched Gift Carlsbad (GiftCarlsbad.com) – a shop local gift card bonus program that stretches residents’ dollars, and drives revenues to Carlsbad businesses quickly. Since in-person meetings are still a challenge, we launched a new webpage to give businesses the latest data about Carlsbad’s economy and what it’s like to have a business here (carlsbadca.gov/DoingBusiness). Because talent is still a priority for innovative businesses, but travel and in-person recruiting are difficult, we re-imagined and relaunched our city-wide talent recruitment site (CarlsbadLifeinAction.com).
Through it all, we collaborated with our partners to maximize impact. Working more closely than ever, the Carlsbad Chamber, Carlsbad Village Association, and Visit Carlsbad have been essential in relaying clear information to our businesses. We’ve now collectively sent 21 Joint Communications to Carlsbad Businesses so that every business is receiving the same critical information and updates. More importantly, these organizations have been conduits to relay individual and widespread business issues to the city to help find solutions. Through them and others, I have started to get to know Carlsbad entrepreneurs and startups, small businesses, large corporate partners, innovation companies, manufacturers and more. These conversations, meetings and site visits with businesses have really shown more than anything that Carlsbad businesses are tenacious, innovative and resilient. Even in these tough times, there has been immense optimism for the future and what’s to come.
Now, with some stability in the operating environment, I am looking ahead and moving into a stride – the more deliberate, strategic pace that is still a fast pace, but meant for endurance. We are again surveying Carlsbad businesses on current COVID-19 impacts and ongoing challenges. This will help inform our approach and priorities down the stretch; I encourage every Carlsbad business to participate (carlsbadca.gov/BusinessSurvey).
Over the next 150 days, I’ll be focusing on developing longer term economic development goals and priorities. I also look forward to meeting more of you, getting a better understanding of your business, and working with and through you to develop Carlsbad’s economy.