What can Rohnert Park do to attract more business to town?
Make the business permit process easier and more streamlined?
Support existing companies by checking in with them on a regular basis?
Promote Rohnert Park as a great place to live and do business via the city’s website?
All of the above, say council members, who have been meeting over the past three months to chart the city’s map to economic success.
“If the companies that are already here are struggling, new companies won’t come in,” said Councilman Amy Ahanotu on Tuesday, at the city’s fifth and final meeting, dubbed an “Economic Prosperity Leadership Forum.”
“We have to make sure we are not blocking companies,” said Ahanotu. “Government is always looking at cost, but in order for us to progress, we have to make that investment. You have to sow the seeds that will grow.
Council’s ideas include everything from more outreach to businesses by the city’s economic development director to removing the glass at City Hall to make it feel “more friendly.”
“We say we're the 'Friendly City' but I’ve had people tell me that the front counter feels like a jail,” said Vice Mayor Joe Callinan. He also pointed out that applicants often have to run between the first and second floor of City Hall when applying for permits and paying fees, adding another barrier to good customer service.
(Others say the bullet-proof glass is necessary because the billing department takes in payments in cash and checks and have had “incidents” in the past.)
Councilwoman Gina Belforte said the city needed to do more to show appreciation for its businesses, large and small, locally-owned or national retailers.
“I get tired when people say that franchises don’t help the local economy,” said Belforte, who herself owns a franchise. “It’s a total myth. Franchises supply local workers and use local suppliers and vendors.”
This could be as simple as checking in on a regular basis with businesses to see what their needs are and sending a letter with the annual renewal notice thanking them for doing business in Rohnert Park.
“It’s the small things that count,” Belforte said.
Are you a business owner in Rohnert Park? Do you think the city is easy to do business in? What else would you like to see from City Hall?