The City Council accepted a $200,000 check earmarked for economic development at Tuesday night’s meeting. From left, Chevron’s Rod Spackman, Councilwomen Marie Fellhauer and Suzanne Fuentes, Chevron’s Frank Semancik, Mayor Bill Fisher, Councilman Carl Jacobson, Chevron’s Lily Craig, and Councilman Dave Atkinson. Photo courtesy City of El Segundo
The City of El Segundo received some rare economic glad tidings this week in the form of a very large check from its largest corporation. Chevron on Tuesday night presented the City Council with a $200,000 grant that is intended to produce larger dividends by furthering the city’s economic development strategies.
The grant was an unexpected and much welcomed boon for the city, which has endured five years of increasingly severe budget cuts — including across-the-board employee salary and benefit cuts and a 20 percent staff reduction. City leaders have aggressively embarked on a mission to further economic development through the attraction of new business.
“Our biggest challenge is getting businesses to move into El Segundo, because they don’t know about El Segundo,” said Mayor Bill Fisher, who took office in the middle of last year with the stated goal of speeding the city’s development strategy. “Once they come here and walk around they go, ‘El Segundo is a wonderful community. Why don’t I locate my business here?’”
Fisher has revived the city’s Economic Development Advisory Council (see story next month), which gathers civic and business leaders monthly devise strategies to bolster the local economy. Among the outgrowths of EDAC is a recommendation to hire a public relations firm, Paluci Communication Arts, to better communicate El Segundo as an attraction for companies seeking a business-friendly city in which to locate. This is one example of what funds from the Chevron grant might allocated towards.
“We need to get our story out there,” Fisher said. “People need to know about El Segundo.”
Last year, the city held three strategic planning sessions — compared to the usual single annual session — as it began to become clear that it faced a burgeoning $3.8 million budget deficit in the next fiscal year. Two priorities emerged from the third session: a focus on solving downtown parking problems hampering local business, and an emphasis of launching in earnest a defined economic development strategy. The idea was broached that the city would devote seed money for this strategy if local businesses would provide matching funds. At the end of the meeting, Chevron spokesman Rod stepped up to the podium and immediately pledged $15,000.
“Now that is a business that steps up at a moment’s notice to help a city,” Fisher said.
Soon thereafter, Continental Development pledged another $10,000. But those contributions, it proved turned out to be only the beginning. Spackman notified the city that Chevron’s corporate headquarters had grant money available to cities looking to invest specifically in economic development. City staff quickly applied, and with what Spackman described Tuesday as “a few nudges to our friends up north to let go of a little extra cash” Chevron last week announced El Segundo as a $200,000 grant recipient.
Spackman said Chevron views the grant as an investment, akin to the money it gives to local education, such as the $1.6 million in STEM grants to given to local schools last year.
“A year and a half ago you had the Urban Land Institute come in here to look at our community and look at what we could do — what are the opportunities in what I like to call Sleepy Hollow but is really Smoky Hollow….and other parts of the community as well,” Spackman said. “The key to that was to start to build a more robust set of business development opportunities here in El Segundo. To do that, you have to have some resources to start that process. For us as a company and us as a facility, business development runs hand in hand with our investment in education.”
Spackman said Chevron’s hope is the grant provides a “jump start” for the city’s larger efforts.
“This is another of kind of the enterprise themes we see as a company as being very important — how do we support small business, how do we encourage economic development,” he said. “….We want to help the city help build and grow what is really a vital part of what makes us successful — that is having a good healthy business climate in the this city. It helps make the community what it is.”
“Thank you, thank you, and thank you,” said Councilman Carl Jacobson.