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Attempts to enliven economy

City Council to decide on adding new programs to its business plan for progress tonight

Posted: March 13, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 13, 2012 1:55 a.m.

The Santa Clarita City Council is expected to decide Tuesday night if it should add new programs to its business plan for progress — including the possible addition of a business incubator, changes to county business licenses, and a plan for a conference center.

The expansion would consist of eight programs designed to help local businesses, encourage job creation and spur the local economy, according to city officials.

While many of the eight programs are already under way, some of the programs — such as a business incubator that would allow startup businesses to have a place to grow, are brand-new — said Jason Crawford, economic development manager for the city of Santa Clarita.

The Santa Clarita City Council first approved its 21-Point Business Plan for Progress in 2009 to help local businesses, encourage job creation and develop marketing programs to increase retail spending in the community, Crawford said.

Mayor Laurie Ender asked that the plan be updated this year as part of her goals for 2012.

Some of the programs will be implemented immediately, while the city hopes to have all of the programs put in place by the end of 2012.

“We know our community is dependant on the economy,” Crawford said. “We want to do everything we can to help our local businesses and generate jobs for our residents.”

New programs

City staff is suggesting the City Council approve plans for a business incubator, which would form a partnership between the city and College of the Canyons, Crawford said.

The incubator would provide space for six to eight startup businesses — mostly creative and technology businesses — to have an office as well as training for a marketing and business plan to help their businesses succeed.

Staff are still fine-tuning the details of the plan, but businesses in the program would likely remain in it for one or two years before leaving and renting their own space, Crawford said.

A likely location for the incubation program is downtown Newhall to help the revitalization efforts there. The cost of the plan for financial year 2012-2013 has been estimated at $90,000 in community development block grant funds, with $50,000 in funding each year through the 2014-2015 financial year.

Another new program that is up for approval is the potential easing of fees for certain businesses that have to pay county business licenses, Crawford said. There are about 100 business types that require regulation and some type of business license from the county, including restaurants, tattoo parlors and massage parlors.

The goal would be to lower fees on businesses such as restaurants and have better regulation and control over about a dozen types of businesses, including pawn brokers, massage parlors and tattoo parlors, Crawford said.

The proposal would lower fees for the vast majority of businesses and only increase fees for those dozen types of businesses. The cost would be revenue-neutral under the plan.

One new aspect of improving the business climate of Santa Clarita is bringing a 40,000- to 60,000-square-foot conference center to the city, Crawford said.

If the City Council approves making a master plan for the building, staff would look at where the building could be located, how much it would cost, and where the funds to pay for it would come from.

The master plan would cost $50,000, with funding coming from the tourism marketing district fund.

A fourth new concept to the economic growth program is the movie ranch overlay zone, which would include annexing a number of movie ranches in the north Saugus area, according to city officials.

The zone reinforces confidence in the pro-filming emphasis of the city and guarantees the city’s commitment and stability to the film industry, city officials said.

Staff is recommending that the city subsidize the cost for the movie ranches to be annexed into the city. The cost would be up to $60,000 from the city’s general fund.

Parts of the proposed economic program that are already under way include:

* Unified development code, which uses information from businesses to cut unnecessary red tape and fees. It would be extended through June 20, 2013.

* Use tax rebate program partnership, which gives incentives to the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce and local businesses to pay use tax for out-of-state purchases.

* The “Film Local” program, which provides location-filming incentives that reduces permit fees for productions. It would be extended through June 30, 2015.

* Development fee deferment, which defers developers fees until later in the building permit process. It would be extended through June 20, 2013.


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