On November 6, 2018, the residents of Bakersfield voted to approve the Public Safety and Vital Services (PSVS) measure. This sales tax measure is intended to provide reliable, locally controlled funding to maintain and enhance community priorities. Economic Development has been a critical issue under PSVS measure priorities, and a key deliverable has been the preparation of a Market Analysis and Economic Development Strategy. Once completed, the document will serve as a foundational tool for the new Economic and Community Development Department.
On June 10, 2020, City Council approve the development of a Market Analysis and Economic Development Strategy to be prepared by The Natelson Dale Group, Inc. in collaboration with the Better Bakersfield and Boundless Kern Initiative (B3K).
B3K PROSPERITY PROJECT
The Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce and the Kern Community Foundation have established the B3K Prosperity Project (B3K) to develop a regional community and economic development strategy. The B3K will be a regional partnership with the Greater Bakersfield Chamber, Kern Community Foundation, County of Kern, the Kern, Inyo, Mono (KIM) Workforce Development Board (WDB), City of Bakersfield and the State of California. The B3K approach aligns with California state efforts to support Inland regions, positioning the Bakersfield region to articulate a vision and investment prospectus with greater potential for state, corporate, and/or philanthropic support.
The planning and development of the B3K strategy will include a collaborative and civic engagement structure to help create an equitable and prosperous region with inclusive economic development strategies, investments in transformational placemaking, championing educational opportunity, building connections among diverse communities and strengthening resiliency to climate change and climate policy. B3K focuses on achieving a comprehensive definition of economic success measured by growth, prosperity, and inclusion.
A key partner will be The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC, that will provide research and analysis as an advisory team in the process, facilitating the initiation and execution of organizing and planning processes; delivering data, tools, and analysis for a customized market assessment; provide structure, guidance, and expertise throughout the strategy creation process, highlighting regional challenges and opportunities and facilitating the development of a plan for transforming the community. To access relevant expertise, B3K would become a Brookings-affiliated project, supported by an Advisory Team that taps capacity of Brookings researchers, alumni, and peer practitioner networks.
The B3K strategy will examine current performance, assets, and proposed interventions based on the five-factor drivers of regional competitiveness, centered on traded sectors, talent, innovation, infrastructure, and governance. B3K objectives would be delivered in four phases:
Education and Organizing – Inform local stakeholders about evolving economic development philosophies and practices to determine shared objectives and guide decision-making; and engage the range of actors needed for institutional ownership to execute both planning and implementation.
Discovery – Undertake a tailored “Regional Market Assessment,” working with local research partners to deliver a quantitative and qualitative analysis diagnosing the region’s economic performance, assets, and opportunities, benchmarked against comparable metros, and glean key findings.
Strategy and Governance – Facilitate translation of findings into action through a local problem-solving process, providing assignments, external expertise, peer experience, and candid feedback; resulting in stakeholder production of a tactical plan, operational commitments, and governance structure.
Execution – Foster refinement and delivery of strategy through ongoing advice, capacity-building, and promotion that enables distributed implementation, maintains momentum, and assesses progress.
BRINGING TOGETHER CITY & REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
The intent of the City’s Market Analysis and Economic Development strategy is to provide the background and baseline for new economic policies, programs and action items, to be implemented by City Staff and community partners. The distinction with the B3K strategy is that B3K goes beyond just economic development; B3K is about developing a regional community development process and civic structure that will establish a vision with action items to build assets and community capital at a regional scale (physical, human, social, financial, environmental, political, and cultural) that increase the capacity of residents to improve their quality of life.
There is value in the City participating in the B3K process itself and there are additional efficiencies in coordinating the two related efforts to leverage data collection and analysis, as well as holding coordinated stakeholder engagement. The City’s Economic Development Strategy can work in conjunction with B3K to bridge the necessary community collaboration needed for successful civic engagement. The community outreach planned within the City’s ED strategy development process can be part of and help the B3K efforts to reduce redundancy and support the building of civic engagement needed for the long-term success of the B3K.
The data and analysis from the B3K Regional Market Assessment can also provide guidance for the City’s ED Strategy and will enhance the regional partnerships the City can use to help implement its economic development goals.
The Greater Bakersfield Chamber and the Kern Community Foundation has proposed joint outreach and stakeholder engagement with the City’s Economic Development Strategy where City staff and ED strategy consultant can be part of the B3K community collaborative during community engagement and planning where both projects can work cohesively. This will reduce the amount of stakeholder engagement the City needs to organize, align with regional efforts and avoid stakeholder fatigue by repeating similar processes. To support the B3K strategy and assist the B3K effort in the extensive regional community outreach; the Chamber has requested a contribution from the City for $83,175.
In conclusion, staff recommends that City Council approve the contribution agreement with the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce for the City to partner with the B3K Prosperity Project in alignment and coordination of our strategic planning to achieve a strategy for regional transformation leading to increased quality of life for Bakersfield residents.