By Katta Hules
Arcadia was a finalist for the Most Business Friendly City Award from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) this year. Though the city did not win, Assistant City Manager/ Development Services Director Jason Kruckeberg says, “Recognition as a finalist from the LAEDC is tangible proof that a city is taking real action in trying to facilitate economic development and growth in their community. It is an honor for Arcadia to be recognized as a finalist.”
The awards for the Most Business Friendly City or the “Eddies” are given out in two categories: cities with a population over 68,000 and cities under that number. LAEDC is a private non-profit organization founded in 1981 to “harness the power of private sector in collaboration with L.A. County, to guide economic development and create more widely shared prosperity,” according to its website. It has been putting on the awards for 21 years.
Winners are decided based on whether they demonstrated “commitment to economic development,” what programs they had to facilitate business, how they developed their economy over the last three years; as well as their business tax rates, fee structures, economic incentives and how they communicate with business clients, according to the LAEDC site.
Kruckeberg says Arcadia has always been “a good place to do business,” but in the past the city has “historically let the private sector do its thing with regard to business expansion, relocation, and development.” This changed he says, when the recession kicked in 2008 and online retail rose to prominence. Then “the city realized it had to take a more proactive approach to business retention and recruitment.”
To that end, the city has put in place several programs to promote business interests and economic development. In the recent Zoning Code Update, the city changed zoning laws to make them more flexible for various land uses and businesses, allowing for more mixed-use buildings. Parking regulations were also modified to be more adaptable.
When the city updated its Zoning Code, it was done with the aim to streamline land use review processes and reduce red tape making it “more straightforward and practical,” according to Kruckeberg. He cites examples such as “removing the need for costly hearings in some cases, reducing the reaction time of the city to projects, and allowing many land uses by right rather than through a discretionary process like a Conditional Use Permit.”
Additionally, in order to bring new economic growth to Arcadia, city officials have been working with commercial real estate professionals from NAI Commercial to “assist with retail recruitment, retention, and finding the right uses for the right places,” Kruckeberg says. Once a business has decided to locate itself in Arcadia, the city has a dedicated staff member to help guide new business and property owners through the process of opening or expanding a business.
The city has also stepped up efforts with the already established businesses such as the Westfield Santa Anita Shopping Mall and the Santa Anita Racetrack. With Westfield, the city is working with the mall to “to allow flexibility in the types of uses that can come into the Shopping Center so that Westfield can react to changes in the marketplace,” says Kruckeberg. With the racetrack, the city has been working on helping the venue expand their calendar with events such as the 626 Night Market and “make upgrades and improvements to the guest experience.”
“Arcadia has an excellent mix of business interests, including a thriving regional shopping center in Westfield Santa Anita, a world-famous racetrack, a healthy medical office sector in close proximity to Methodist Hospital, an intact Downtown with a new rail station, a healthy amount of industrial development, and a number of business/retail districts,” Kruckeberg says. As for being an Eddy finalist, he points out that, “Arcadia has only applied for this award a few times in the past; many cities apply annually,” making it all the more special to get so close to winning. Residents interested in the city’s economic expansion and new business programs can learn more here.
Arcadia was beat out this year by the City of Pico Rivera. In the larger city category, Santa Clarita took home the Eddy. Other finalists for the Most Business Friendly City included Compton, Long Beach, Downey, Lakewood, Azusa and Rosemead. Additionally, CEO and co-founder of The Honest Company Brian Lee, construction company AECOM and California State University at Long Beach were also honored at the awards. Learn more about the Eddy Awards here.