Mayor Swearengin Outlines City of Fresno Economic Development Efforts

Calling for a commitment to workforce development and adult education, Mayor Ashley Swearengin on Oct. 7 outlined her administration’s multi-pronged economic development efforts to the Fresno City Council.

“Economic development is a team sport, and our goal at the City of Fresno is making sure we’re doing our part the best way we can,” Mayor Swearengin said. “We’re committed to working with our partners in various organizations and agencies throughout the City to meet our economic challenges.”

Mayor Swearengin said the economic development efforts must focus beyond simply creating jobs to also include training workers to fill available jobs.

“Workforce development is a key issue for industries throughout our area,“ Mayor Swearengin said. “We must correct the long-time disconnect we’ve seen between the skills of our workers and the jobs that are available. Even in these tough economic times, there are many jobs in the Fresno area that go unfilled because companies can’t find qualified workers.”

Blake Konczal, executive director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board, said a soon-to-be-published employment survey conducted by the agency shows that 2,000 jobs in Fresno County are currently unfilled because of a lack of qualified workers. That number is expected to increase to 3,500 in two years, Konczal said.

To address the issue, Mayor Swearengin said she will soon launch an initiative related to adult education that will focus on basic skills and improving education levels. Mayor Swearengin has convened an Adult Education Task Force to remove the obstacles for accessing the job training and education programs so people can improve their skills and compete for jobs in the community.

Mayor Swearengin also said the city is taking a number of steps related to industrial expansion and recruitment, including:
• Appointment of a Mayor’s Industrial Council to facilitate industrial brokers’ efforts to expand and locate clients to Fresno. Council members are Buk Wagner and Stewart Randall of Colliers Tingey, Chad McCardell of Industrial California, Ethan Smith and John Stewart of Pearson Realty, John Hans of Fortune Associates, Nick Audino of CB/Richard Ellis, John Brelsford of Diversified Development Group, Leland Parnagian of Fowler Packing, Steve Geil of the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation and City Council President Larry Westerlund. The Council will hold its first meeting on Monday, Oct. 18.
• Appointment of a City Hall industrial specialist in the City Manager’s Office;
• Focusing on shovel-ready industrial land through the General Plan update and a strategic capital improvement plan;

Other elements of the City’s economic development efforts include:
• The Fresno Fresh Expo on March 11, 2011, which will promote 50 of Fresno’s finest food growers, manufacturers, processors, producers, distributors and wine makers to regional and national retail buyers as well as local restaurants and chefs.
• The City’s participation in the Buy Local strategy through local business education on City procurement and bidding processes and assisting businesses with proper registration and insurance requirements.
• Partnering with The Fresno Bee to print a “Directory of Neighbor-Owned Businesses” that will feature 1,600 locally owned restaurants and retailers. The directory will be distributed to 75,000 homes through The Fresno Bee on Oct. 23.
• The PIPES (Process Improvement and Permit Enhancement Strategy) program to streamline the City’s development review processes and timelines for investors looking to bring high-quality projects to Fresno.
• Creation of an on-line directory that will list every business in Fresno with a current business license. The directory will launch later this month.
• The Prime Time for Business program, in which featured businesses tell their stories about doing business in the city.

A copy of the Mayor’s PowerPoint presentation to City Council is here.