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City of Santa Clarita Knows How to Make Business Feel at Home : The area is a good place to live and work because it is committed to initiatives to meet goals of economic development, public safety and education.

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The recession that has hammered Southern California for the past three years has been felt less deeply in the Santa Clarita Valley. Consider these facts:

* In September, the unemployment rate in the city of Santa Clarita was 4.7% compared to 9.7% for Los Angeles County.

* Retail sales at Valencia Town Center in the Santa Clarita Valley are exceeding most expectations, and the year-old regional mall is projected to be fully leased by early 1994.

* New-home sales at Valencia are 20% higher this year than last year.

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* In the last five years the population of the Santa Clarita Valley has risen from 144,000 to 167,000, and the region has gained thousands of jobs per year.

* City & State, a newspaper for state and local government, recently ranked the city of Santa Clarita fifth among 25 U.S. “up and coming” cities.

Clearly, the Santa Clarita Valley is a bright spot in economically troubled Southern California. But why?

According to some Southern Californians, the Santa Clarita Valley benefits from the longstanding trend of Los Angeles jobs and families to relocate to outlying communities.

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In the 1990s, however, an outlying community is no longer guaranteed growth and prosperity. On-the-move jobs and families are now likely to leave the state, not just the city.

People and employees come to the Santa Clarita Valley because it is a good place to live and work. And it is a good place to live and work because residents, businesses and local government are committed to community-based initiatives as a strategy for addressing--and solving--some of Southern California’s greatest challenges, such as economic development, public safety and education.

First, the city of Santa Clarita is pursuing supportive and productive business policies. Through its actions, for example, the public and private sectors often work together for the benefit of the entire Santa Clarita Valley. As a result of a recent economic recovery workshop there, public and private leaders have prepared plans for strengthening the regional economy. Committees tackled the following issues: new business, marketing, development process review, business climate and economic competitiveness. A different member of the City Council served on each committee.

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Because of these supportive policies, California Business recently named Santa Clarita the second-best mid-size city in the state to do business in.

Southern California businesses agree and act accordingly. Earlier this year, U.S. Borax--the “20-mule team” company--moved its headquarters and research laboratories to Valencia. ITT has just announced the relocation of two divisions, totaling 400 jobs, to Valencia.

Second, the Santa Clarita Valley is a safe community. According to FBI statistics, it was the third-safest American city in 1991 and 1992 among municipalities with populations over 100,000.

One reason for this distinction is active community participation in programs to stop crime before it starts. The Neighborhood Watch program has more than 9,000 participants in the Santa Clarita Valley. The community schools actively support drug-prevention programs called DARE (grades K-5) and Be Cool (7 and 8). Personal safety programs include senior safety, bank robbery prevention, rape prevention, auto safety and bicycle safety.

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Third, the Santa Clarita Valley supports a strong public school system. The majority of local schools place in the top 10% statewide, based on student test scores. Daily attendance figures surpass 95%.

Community-based initiatives are another reason for the successful school system. The local school districts are small enough--and hence responsive enough--for parental interest and business-sponsored programs to make a real difference in the quality of education.

Local businesses are also active supporters of the schools through programs such as Business Buddies, Adopted Schools, Principal for a Day and Teacher Tribute. For example, the Canyon Country Chamber of Commerce has “adopted” sixth-grade classes so students can learn more about their community and how various local businesses operate.

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Fourth and finally, local residents, businesses and government do not take the Santa Clarita Valley’s advantages for granted.

If a problem comes up, they band together and try to find a solution at a community level. If an opportunity arises to better their community, the people of the Santa Clarita Valley also pursue it.

The 1990s are proving a difficult time for Southern California. However, community-based action offers our region a successful strategy to address many of the current challenges and avoid many problems before they go too far. The Santa Clarita Valley’s experience is a great example for other Southern California residents, businesses and governments.


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