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Build a Thriving Economy
Oakland has all of the components necessary for a world-class economy. As a councilmember, I will lead an economic development effort that assembles those components to maximize their financial and social benefit, building on existing strengths while streamlining opportunities for future growth.
Oakland’s business advantages are many, including the city’s top-notch seaport, which continues to grow at a rate that outpaces all ports on the West Coast; its established industries, such as health care and food production; its potential for expansion, through underused real estate located at the center of the Bay Area’s transportation corridors; and its proven ability to innovate with inspiration and energy from an educated and enlightened population.
Unfortunately, during the past several decades, Oakland’s substantial business tax rates have not been offset by attractive tax incentives or aggressive promotion of Enterprise Zone tax credits. A daunting permitting and licensing bureaucracy has stymied many fledgling businesses. In addition to these issues, the city’s general reputation for high crime and underperforming schools has made business attraction a long-standing challenge.
We can stimulate business and incentivize investments in improving our building stock, by creating a discounted, express building permit for minor renovations and allowing self-certification of building plans.
As a councilmember, I will work to tear down the city’s barriers to business while facilitating economic growth and promoting the city’s many strengths. I will push for change on substantive economic issues and strive to alter negative perceptions about doing business in Oakland.
In my former role as the community and economic policy adviser to the Oakland City Council, I examined how to encourage business while requiring good corporate citizenship.
Looking to the future, the Army Base redevelopment project proposes to double the port’s existing cargo and warehousing business, expanding rail capacity and moving dramatically more goods from overseas and the Bay Area to the Midwestern and Eastern U.S.
The project will need assistance as it seeks zoning and land use changes. Once it is approved, local companies making manufactured goods that can be transported by rail or ship must be supported and promoted. For example, food production, an historic Oakland industry, has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, and shows great potential for growth.
Meanwhile, evolving health care and environmental industries, such as solar panel production, also need the city’s assistance. Kaiser’s new development at Broadway and MacArthur shows that Oakland continues to be perceived as a welcoming place for the health care sector, which will continue to grow as the population ages and the industry continues to modernize.
But, while corporations and large enterprises are crucial to Oakland’s future success, small businesses currently dominate much of the city’s economy that currently is expanding. In the past several years, cutting edge restaurateurs have flocked to the city for its relatively cheap commercial space and untapped audience for gourmet and creative cuisine. This evolution has been fostered in conjunction with Oakland’s burgeoning art and music scene.
While these smaller, more idiosyncratic endeavors may not generate as much tax revenue as bigger industries, they are an important component in debunking Oakland’s reputation as a gritty, industrial town, and helping attract a creative class of workers who want to live and recreate near their work.
Oakland has all the ingredients needed to become an economic powerhouse. What it lacks is a coordinated effort to harness those elements and facilitate their expansion. As a city councilmember, I will lead that effort.