Economic Development - Former Long Beach ED Manager Creates Firm To Bring Business To Cities
City Council Agendizes Item To Hire ED Manager
By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
October 9, 2012 – While the City of Long Beach explores bringing back an economic development officer, the man who most recently served in that position is now working to help other cities fill their economic development voids.
Robert Swayze recently formed Economic Development Results, LLC, (EDR), replete with veteran economic development professionals. A familiar name in Long Beach, Swayze led the economic development department at the City of Long Beach until 2010, when budget cuts eliminated the department completely. Almost three years later, Vice Mayor Robert Garcia and several councilmembers have agendized a proposal for the October 9 Long Beach City Council meeting to bring back an economic development position under the city manager’s department.
In an interview before the item was placed on the agenda, Swayze told the Business Journal that there is no better time than now for municipalities to invest in economic development.
“A healthy local economy is the bedrock of a community – it creates jobs for residents, needed goods and services, and generates revenues to support fire, police and libraries,” he said. “You simply can’t have a thriving community without a thriving local economy. But cities face declining revenues, increased costs and the loss of redevelopment. They have to find a new model that works for them, works for their budget and achieves their goal of local prosperity.”
For this reason, Swayze has partnered with four associates to form EDR. Based in Altadena, EDR offers a range of services for economic development implementation rather than planning, Swayze said, noting that the EDR team is focused on providing results-oriented delivery mechanisms and hands-on service.
The firm is offering the following services to interested jurisdictions:
• Securing financing for business and municipal projects
• Managing existing and securing new enterprise zone designation
• Developing and administering Business Improvement Districts
• Working with business clusters in technology, medical and entertainment sectors
• Developing marketing and branding efforts for cities and projects
The goal is to provide services to jurisdictions on a contract basis that are more cost effective than putting those services into action themselves.
“We’re not talking about consulting and reports,” Swayze said. “EDR isn’t a planning firm. Reports are none of our business – implementation is. What we want is for our team to be the city’s team. We will be a day one ready team for a jurisdiction – with decades of experience in every aspect of economic development.”
Joining Swayze as founders are Kermit Hathcoat, former manager of regional economic development for the Los Angeles County Community Development Corporation; Christina Kino-Miller, former regional manager with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC); Mary Nemick, former public affairs manager for the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency; and Sid White, former manager of economic development, redevelopment and housing for the City of Ventura.
Swayze said he had some notable successes while working for the City of Long Beach, as well as sparking some controversies. He takes credit for the 15-year re-designation and 40 percent expansion of the Long Beach Enterprise Zone, as well as for leadership of the C-17 Red Team and being a champion for retaining auto dealerships, attracting technology firms and expanding the creative sector.
However, Swayze was criticized during his tenure as economic development manager for not being as focused on mom-and-pop businesses. When economic times got tough, Swayze was near the end of his tenure. As his role with the city diminished, Swayze went on to become senior vice president for economic development with the LAEDC.
To address his critics, Swayze said, “From the first day on the job I knew Long beach residents were extraordinarily passionate about their city – and never were bashful about expressing their opinions. That’s one of the great strengths of Long Beach. I viewed my role as maximizing the services we had available to businesses and trying to shape opportunities as best we could and present them to the council for their decision.”
Now the city council is looking to make a decision on reinstating an economic development position for Long Beach. The proposal, made by Vice Mayor Garcia and supported by councilmembers Gary DeLong, Patrick O’Donnell and James Johnson, requests the city manager explore creating a business and economic development officer and report back to council in 90 days about the feasibility and cost of the position.
“It’s extremely important that the City take a proactive role in bringing new business to Long Beach and maintaining the businesses we already have,” Garcia said in an October 4 statement. “With the right person in this position, we have an opportunity to create new jobs and expand our tax base.” Garcia would not only like to restore the economic development position eliminated in 2010, but also expand the duties of the position to include more active recruitment and serve as an ombudsman for the city.
“If a business wants to open in Long Beach, and they are facing obstacles within our own city government, then I expect this new officer to step in and help cut the red tape,” he said.