2009-12-09 Economic Development Strategy and Implementation Plan Kick-Off Meeting

Went to the Petaluma Economic Development Strategy and Implementation Plan Kick-Off Meeting this afternoon. A rough transcription of my notes. All errors are mine, I apologize in advance for all of the errors, including mis-spellings of people's names and getting stuff completely wrong, and any place where I may have mis-represented the words or opinions of any of the participants.

Participating, and a few words about what they were described as representing, were:

Anita Pelligrini
Representing the Chamber of Commerce
Mary Stompe
Representing non-profits
Gary Imm
Representing agricultural interests
Daymon Doss
Marie McCusker
Missed what group she was from, may have been the arts
Melissa Abercrombie
Neighborhood association
Dick Herman
Not present, he's head of Santa Rosa MFG
David Keller
Environmental interests
Marty Bennet
Living wage
John Schirar
Scott Duiven
Missed, he may have actually been from the city
John Brown
Petaluma City Manager
Doug Svennson
From Applied Development Economics, the organization doing the plan
Kathy Studwell
Project manager from Applied Development Economics

Kathy Studwell gave us a quick rundown on the process and mechanisms:

  • Economic Development Strategy is a tool for achieving Quality of Life goals.
  • There'll be updates on the web site.
  • There'll be a look at jobs broken down by industry clusters, for example film, "river" based, like shipping and tourism receration, telco, agriculture.
  • There'll be a retail leakage analysis (Ed: again? though the claim is that this will have more detail than the 2005 study)
  • Technology infrastructure
  • Water availability
  • Fiscal impacts of retail, office, housing.
  • There'll be 4 focus group meetings
  • a public forum, probably on a Saturday\
  • 2 City Council meetings, first on goals, the second to present action items.
  • David Keller asked about what was encompassed in the notion of economic development, and what the timeframe was, today, or 10-20-30 years hence?

    Some quotes from Kathy Studwell:

    • "You need something to tax"
  • People want a "great job close to where they live", with "shopping opportunities", and to get that you need to "provide a business climate that allows for success"
    • She said "we're not going out 20 years", this has a "3-5 year timeline" with "strategies that can be implemented right away"

    Doug Svennson added that there's a line between economic and community development, that the general plan is the community development long-term, and the economic plan provided a strategy for implementing that and moving forward, "how do we stimulate business ... in the community?" and that it would leave the long-term to the general plan.

    Marke McCusker asked what sort of long-term assessments of the plan there were. The answer was that for each implementation item there will be a metric, such as retail sales per square foot, job gains or losses, school K-12 success, one measurement might be students meeting UC/CSU requirements for admissions. And that this all needs to be the sort of data that the city can get on a regular basis.

    Question from the audience: What about regional needs? Market research will talk with county and Bay Area associations on Petaluma's position in the region, and this is also the reason for business cluster analysis.

    Assets in Petaluma

    The first question was what assets does Petaluma have

    Mary Stompe pointed to the river, which led to mention of:

    • Jerico produces very pure calcium from shells in the Bay.
    • Recreational craft
    • North Bay Rowing Club

    David Keller pointed out that

    • We're at the head end of the Petaluma Marsh, the largest remaining salt marsh in the lower 48
    • We have dairy & agriculture.

    Gary Imm remarked that it was hard for dairy and ag to compete against the big central valley operations, which has led to more organic and niche agriculture. He also mentioned that he believes that culturally Petaluma has a very strong and dedicated work ethic.

    Mary Stompe pointed out the historic nature of the city of Petaluma

    Marie McKsuker pointed to Heritage Tourism, the Victorian homes, the Iron Front buildings.

    Onita Pelligrini pointed out that we have SRJC Petaluma Campus and are close to Sonoma State.

    Gary Imm called for more high tech, and David Keller points out that we have lots of vacant office space.


    Mary Stompe - poor traffic circulation

    David Keller:

    • relatively isolated market, Novato kind of caps northbound traffice from Marin, Rohnert Park does the same thing for Santa Rosa and points north.
  • We have a downtown largely because Petaluma was too poor in the 1960s to build a mall.
    • There was some dispute on exact numbers, but 8-12% of commuters go to SF, 18k/day to Marin, the rest north to Santa Rosa.

    Gary Imm pointed out that Clover has employees commuting in from as far away as Lake County, possibly because of the cost of living closer.

    David Keller pointed out that we have few regional parks, and the schools were "not a draw".

    Mary Stompe remarked that "support of government isn't what it once was" Ed: very divided local politics, not much gap bridging or sense of collaborative leadership

    David Keller observed that non-office space, for art and craft manufacturing and such, was expensive.

    And there was a general sense that downtown has some infrastructure issues, buildings with unreinforced masonry fronts, a lack of fire sprinklers.


    External trends and influences that Petaluma could hop on.

    Anita Pelligrini - cultural tourism.

    David Keller - the North Bay is currently lacking a circa 100k sqauare foot exhibit/convention center, Petaluma has an extremely under-used fairgrounds and that the Fair Board was a state agency that leased the land from the city.

    Marie McCusker mentioned SMART.

    David Keller pointed out that the rail station area was a portion of a greater large quantity of brownfields in the city.

    Both mentioned that the Santa Rosa Airport and the Petaluma Airport were positives that seemed to be underutilized.

    Daymon Doss pointed out that our location close to SF is a threat: If people can visit SF, why would they visit Petaluma?

    He and Mary Stompe also mentioned that it was hgard to get convention traffic in Petaluma because transportation into the city wasn't strong.

    David Keller pointed out that Petaluma has an identity crisis: It's stuck between the urbane and cutting edge "Bay Area", and the more traditional "Redwood Empire"

    Mention was made (probably by Keller) that the trend towards local food production was a strong one.

    Anita Pelligrini mentioned a lack of sports complexes.


    David Keller mentioned the state-wide issue of the continued de-funding of UC & CSU that pulls CA education down, and if that continues it'll pull all of coastal California down.

    Mary Stompe allowed as how at a state level the budget crisis has caused a lot of city re/development funds to be retargeted.

    David Keller mentioned over-retailing, and the perceived & real costs of water and wastewater.

    Anita Pelligrini brought up the age issue: Petaluma is growing older, and after high school kids move away and don't come back. House prices are high, and the schools aren't a draw.

    Gary Imm pointed out that Petaluma has a reputation for passionate eloquent speakers, and if, in finding a middle ground, this plan sought to make them all happy it was doomed to mediocre failure.

    David Keller pointed out that local politics have gotten very nasty and polarized.

    Marie McCusker asked for thoughts on the strengths of our non-profits.

    Kathby Studwell noted that the city can't do it all, that a lot of this process is coordinating variuos organizations, all play a part in implementation.

    Gary Imm mentioned that it's easy for businesses to talk to the city, but taking business to the implementation level is difficult, and that even if that changes there's a reputation and perception issue in the business community to address.

    Someone pointed out that we need champions for economic development, people willing to lead that process.

    David Keller asked about "catalytic projects"

    My notes from the response from Doug and Kathy from ADE read

    critical mass can be created by development process & sites. We have core industries which need support industries.

    What's a core we can build around?

    Project w/critical mass around rail station?

    Catalytic projects can be kernels which create a snowball, often high risk & need public involvment - needn't be money, can just be easy permitting, etc.

    4 Seasons in East Palo Alto and the Theater Square in Atascadero were mentioned.

    Dayman Doss mentioned that Petaluma Health Center just got $9M in federal funds which will lead to new construction and expanded health services.


    There was then further discussion of planning and looking to how to find samples of people and speakers.

    I was going to try to get pictures of the note pages, but ended up talking to people while they were taken down. Hopefully they'll be put up on the city site soon.

    Category: Petaluma Category: Dan Lyke life