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Placer County studying economic development

By: Gloria Young, Journal staff writer
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A project that began in late April will develop a strategy for future economic development in Placer County. The study, commissioned by the Placer County Office of Economic Development, is being undertaken by Chico-based Chabin Concepts, Inc. The $35,000 effort is funded by a state of California community block grant, Chabin president Audrey Taylor said Monday. “It is to update the economic development strategy, which focuses on how to increase job creation and business investment in the county,” Taylor said. “(We’re looking at) how they coordinate with the cities. We’ll be talking to all of the cities, and talking to different organizations and with businesses, economic development professionals within the cities and education groups. It’s going to be a variety of public and private organizations to get input from all of them.” Taylor estimates the process will take four to five months. “What we’ll be delivering is a roadmap of economic development in today’s market — how they might be moving forward. They’ve done an excellent job and most of cities have done excellent job of doing economic development,” she said. However, the troubled economy has created challenges and opportunities that didn’t exist five years ago, she said. Chabin has seven employees and has been doing economic development consulting for 20 years. About half of the company’s contracts are in California, the rest nationwide. “Placer County selected Chabin Concepts based on track record, accomplishments and an outstanding proposal,” Dave Snyder, director of the Placer County Office of Economic Development, said in a press release. “Chabin has completed more than 250 strategies for communities across the country and has achieved superior results. All of the economic development stakeholders throughout the county are extremely excited about the prospects of working with Chabin Concepts.” Among Chabin’s recent clients were Yuba City and Galt. Jason Behrmann, Galt’s assistant city manager, said his city has already completed some of the suggestions provided in the report, which was completed a year ago, and is seeing a positive response. The report’s recommendations included building a positive image for the community, creating a vital old town and expanding business and job opportunities. “For each one of them, we’ve have had some success,” Behrmann said. Galt’s response has included creating signage and banners, planting trees and installing new streetlights in the main section of the city. A new task force was formed to get business and citizens involved in the economic development process. “One recommendation was that, as staff, we spend more time going out meeting with local businesses, particularly job-producing businesses, to see how they’re doing,” Behrmann said. “We’ve had really good feedback in forging new relationships and improving the bonds that were there already.” Chabin’s program for Placer County will begin with an asset inventory. Then there will be work sessions with the community. “Every area is different,” Taylor said. “I think the approach to economic development is there’s a framework. Economic development looks at business retention and expansion, business attraction and entrepreunership sponsorship. We know that most of local companies are struggling, from a manufacturing standpoint and consumer standpoint. Product sales and consumer sales are down. That’s across the board. Where we do see growth is where things are expanding such as renewable energy. … The other thing, when you have the economy this weak, you’re really looking at the future and when we come out of this, are we prepared. It’s a roadmap. Here are your opportunities. Here are ways you might approach these opportunities.” The Journal’s Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.