By Mark Blackney
There’s the old saying: Some people talk the talk while others walk the walk. When it comes to the city of Clovis and supporting business, it’s “running” away with the trophy.
One of the deciding factors in the Nerd Wallet designation of Clovis as the Number One City in California to raise a Young Family is whether the city is growing and prospering with a strong economic base. When driving around our city and seeing all the commercial activity, it’s easy to see why we won that award.
After a 10 year fight with environmentalists and unions, the Clovis Crossings Center on Herndon was finally completed in 2012. Despite cries that Walmart would drive business out of the city, the opposite has happened. As predicted by the Chamber and the city, the center has attracted a newer and larger customer base that has brought other businesses to town.
Long time vacant buildings are filling up with tenants that are doing big business. Three shopping centers, the Sierra Vista Mall, Clovis Trading Post and the Applebees center on Shaw and Minnewawa, have new owners who are sprucing them up and bringing in new businesses. The vacant Savemart grocery store at Clovis and Herndon will become a Sprouts Market and Ross Dress for Less is taking over the vacant CVS store. With the establishment of these two anchors, the smaller spaces will rent out quickly.
Economic Development Director Shawn Miller reports that he’s seen a big boost in business growth. “There are more businesses starting or expanding than I’ve seen in a long time”. He also tells us that the vacancy rate has shrunk considerably.
He mentioned the building activity going on in the industrial area near Pelco, on Clovis Avenue north of Sierra and in Old Town at the Centennial Plaza. There are plenty more in the pipeline.
Credit can be given to a slowly growing economy and an increase in the local population, many attracted here by our reputation as a large city that still maintains its small town values. With our schools considered the centerpiece of our community that respects quality education, we have a healthy, supportive quality of life protected by our award winning public safety departments.
There is one more major factor influencing our economic growth – the pro-business policies of City Hall. There’s a good reason why we’ve had the same city council people for the past dozen years. All five passionately believe in the importance of a strong economic base and have created policies to welcome and support new business ventures by expediting the process and charging some of the lowest fees in the Valley.
Speeding up the process is a top priority. The timeline of course depends on the type of business and the facility. A mere tenant change in an existing building usually moves faster than new construction, but as Shawn Miller says, “The difference between us and other cities is that we really want to help the people move in, make money for themselves and start generating sales tax”.
Once a location is chosen, the city invites the applicant to a Directors Review Committee meeting where representatives from each department sit down to discuss various issues, offer advice, review building plans and answer questions. By all working together in the same room, questions and issues can be easily answered and solved. This meeting is free of charge and happens early on in the process. I have heard from several businesses that this process takes at least six months in other cities whereas it’s a starting point in Clovis.
The city gives personal attention to each applicant. In a form of a concierge service, one employee is assigned to a business to assist it in the permit process and overcoming obstacles.
The City of Clovis is a leader in technology. In addition to their informative city website, they have created www.clovis4business.com that is designed for existing businesses, start-ups, developers and chains looking to expand into our market. There you’ll find incentives available through the City of Clovis, County of Fresno, State of California and the Federal Government. Some of these include a City of Clovis development fee reduction for locating within certain geographical areas; programs for training new employees; and programs to help offset the cost of purchasing new equipment.
The city also offers community workshops on issues that may affect business in Clovis including ADA requirements, homelessness and social media training.
Mayor Nathan Magsig commented, “All this economic activity creates new jobs that mean not only new tax revenue for the city but also an employed populace that enhances our great place to live. The city will continue to support business growth through our policies and procedures.”
Quickly solving problems and planning for the future is nothing new to City Hall. In 2004, they raised our garbage rates in order to retrofit our existing landfill. When the debt was paid off in less than anticipated time, our fees were immediately lowered. They also constructed state of the art sewage and water treatment plants that will cover our infrastructure needs through 2025. They included miles of “purple pipe” that transports recycled water throughout the city to be used in landscaping.
When the decision was made to create the Centennial Plaza in Old Town, it was quickly completed using redevelopment funds that were on hand. Work is now starting on the two retail pads that will add 31,000 more square feet for business.
Plans for the new library and senior center at Clovis Ave and 3rd Street are to have construction begin in early 2016.
All these actions are laying the foundation for a successful, sustainable future for the city of Clovis. According to Mark Lautman, the founding director of the Community Economic Lab, a non-profit think tank that creates new approaches to economic development, “winning” cities in the future will have 5 common traits: A stable and improving eco system, a low and improving crime rate, world class public education, affordable housing and an economy that is growing faster than the population.
Thanks to the hard work of the city, we are on track to continue in the top spot.