Pasadena has gone digital to beef up the city’s longstanding efforts to attract businesses to locate in the city, officials said.
The City’s Economic Development department has launched a new website, Futureyourselfhere.com, as a marketing tool designed to highlight Pasadena as a destination city for culture and entertainment and to inspire businesses and workers to put down roots in town for the long haul.
City officials also say the website is a vehicle to present Pasadena as a business-friendly city, although not all local business people agree with the characterization.
The website features sections such as economic indicator resources, demographic statistics, business profiles and interviews, and more.
“The ‘Future Yourself Here website is intended to highlight the strengths of Pasadena when it comes to our economy, our partners, and it’s really a website that identifies what it’s like to live here and to work here,” said Pasadena’s Economic Development Manager Eric Duyshart. “It’s kind of a general promotional website that really highlights our amenities.”
Duyshart describes the website as being less of a city government website and more of a focused-service website designed to help direct people to the City, Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, Convention Center, Innovate Pasadena, the business districts and other resources.
“We want people to think in a proactive way toward the future, even those people who are living here and future residents and future employees and future businesses. So it is hopefully a way to kind of tie that together in a variety of ways,” said Duyshart.
Mayor Terry Tornek said city officials have long been actively recruiting business, noting that his job is not just ceremonial.
“Mayors don’t just go to ribbon cuttings,” Tornek said. “Mayors also make pitch meetings to people who are considering investing in Pasadena. It’s critical to us that we attract businesses of all types to Pasadena because they represent the opportunity. … The way you maintain a diverse community is to make sure that people of various skill levels can all find jobs and the way you do that in today’s marketplace is … you go out and search for them.”
District 7 Councilmember Andy Wilson says the website is a fresh approach to help market the city as a business-friendly destination.
“I think that will resonate and start maybe or strategically targeting businesses that we want here. I love the idea of being proactive around attracting … creative technology businesses, retail businesses to Pasadena. So I’m eager to see how that plays out, but certainly, I laud them for taking a step to be proactive and exercising some creativity,” said Wilson.
Wilson said the City’s Economic Development & Technology Committee, also known as ED Tech, held a workshop comprised of Pasadena CEO’s of a number of creative businesses to get feedback on the strategy.
“Their biggest complaint was attracting more capable well-educated properly equipped and skilled people to the workforce,” said Wilson. “So there’s kind of a workforce shortage question when you look for people with certain skills.”
Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Little says the idea of Pasadena identifying itself as a business-friendly city may not find much agreement by small business owners in the community.
“I think some of the businesses, especially the small ones, are feeling frustrated,” said Little.
Little says in recent years the City has made it difficult for small business to thrive, citing the Minimum Wage Ordinance, which was implemented in 2016 and will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 and the polystyrene ban (popularly known as “Styrofoam”) which banned the retail sale of disposable polystyrene products.
“They compound and I think at some point, people are just seeing the City as making it more and more difficult to be profitable,” said Little.
The City Council has agreed to put a proposed 0.75 sales tax initiative on the ballot for the November 2018 General Election that would ask voters to approve adding a 3/4 cent municipal sales tax to local purchases. Little says this raises concerns within Pasadena’s business sector.
“There’s a whole host of things that have been done that some, especially small business owners, see as unfriendly for their profitability. And they also honestly don’t feel listened to. It’s kind of like the City Council’s just jamming things down your throat and not listening or paying attention to their concerns and not even really wanting to hear a fact about certain things,” said Little.
The local tax would be expected to generate approximately $21 million per year and it would add only 0.75 of one cent to every $1.00 of taxable transactions, the staff report noted.
Tornek says the sales tax initiative is expected to generate $14 million per year for the City’s operating costs and $7 million for the Pasadena Unified School District.
“The good part for Pasadena is we’re a destination for visitors, we’re a destination for health care or destination for financial services among other things. So people do come here. We’re relatively easy to get to and centralized so people can make a day of a visit to the doctor in Pasadena if they want to. So that’s helpful, but I think in general, a lot of the smaller business owners are kind of feeling that they’re not well loved at City Hall,” said Little.
Visit www.futureyourselfhere.com for more information.