Community Member Question:
The City seems to be controlling much of its challenges, such as foreclosed homes, balancing the budget and moving forward on many infrastructure projects. The challenge of job growth is perhaps the most difficult. My question is, what incentives are being given or steps being taken to create job growth?
City Manager Response:
The loss of jobs has impacted Fontana and the Inland Empire tremendously over the past two years. San Bernardino County currently stands at 14.8% unemployment rate and the prediction is things aren’t going to turn around quickly. With that in mind, your question is a good one and one that has a multi-faceted answer.
This past week I had an opportunity to talk to Dr. John Husing, the Inland Empire’s leading economist, about job growth in the Inland Empire. Dr. Husing takes an interesting approach as it relates to jobs. He looks at job generation not from a local city perspective, but rather from an area perspective, since no one city alone can turn the tide on job availability.
The key for Fontana and our IE neighbors is to become more attractive for businesses and developers. We can influence this attractiveness by addressing the areas developers take into consideration when deciding where to expand or plant new roots, including streamlining the development process, having an available workforce with the qualities they desire, and providing a good quality of life that enhances what the business can offer their employees.
Streamlining Development Process
The two most important issues to developers are time and certainty. They want to work with communities that can work side by side with them through the entire development process, remove unnecessary red tape, and provide clear feedback on the rules to build in that community.
Fontana staff work very closely with developers to get things done in a timely manner. We bring all of the players to the table early in the process so that a business owner understands that we care about their success and through clear communication, work towards not having any surprises come up through the process.
The Mayor and City Council have continued to provide strong leadership and are dedicated to providing business owners and developers with the best foundation in order to start out on a positive path.
Availability of Workforce
The demographic makeup of the Inland Empire, specifically the average level of education of our workforce, makes this area most appealing to blue collar job based businesses. Unfortunately, the turndown in the economy has significantly impacted the blue collar industry, such as construction and logistics, and little to no new business is being generated. The City of Fontana has established zoning that allows for such job development, which is the first step in making us appealing to those businesses. In addition to the zoning, the city is working diligently to improve infrastructure (roads, etc.) and has looked at incentives such as economic zones with reduced development fees to encourage businesses to choose Fontana as the best location to open up shop.
In the longer term, the City of Fontana has partnered with local education institutions to expand educational services in the area with a goal of improving our workforce demographics. Through a partnership with the City, Chaffey College in Fontana will soon be four times its size and offer many more instructional opportunities. The City of Fontana has also partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations to conduct job development training, job fairs, and job recruitments – again with a goal of enhancing our workforce and becoming more appealing to businesses.
Quality of Living
Businesses are no different than you or I when it comes to selecting places to locate. They are looking for affordable locations with the highest quality of living possible. Many of the amenities that have been created in the City of Fontana not only encourage new residents to move in, they also encourage businesses to locate here. When a new business prospect drives to my office to discuss relocation or expansion plans, they drive through the community and make their own internal assessment about whether or not this is a community they wish to become a part of.
With an eye for the future, the Mayor and City Council have both a strong commitment and vision for jobs in Fontana. This vision has led them to create a planned area for future office space that has been called the corporate corridor. This corridor is sufficient land to allow for the development of office buildings and white collar jobs for the area in the future. This approach is a 15 to 20 year look down the road that is intended to take advantage of the proximity of the airport, the high quality residential development being created in the area, and the community amenities that Fontana and the surrounding Inland Empire offers.
The short-term answer to the question of how to create jobs locally is to get construction moving forward again. Dealing with foreclosures, living within our means, and improving transportation and flood control systems are all part of the city’s efforts to keep the wheels under us during this downturn. The Inland Empire’s economy is based on the construction industry and much of the downturn locally has been created by the bottom falling out of the housing market. We are beginning to see some signs of recovery in this area. I am confident that we will continue to see improvement in this area during the next couple of years.