Sweeney Makes Friends on Behalf of Business-Friendly Oxnard
If an Oxnard business is having trouble financing an expansion, Pat Sweeney is ready to help locate the necessary funds. If a company from outside the city is scouting for an industrial building in which to relocate, Sweeney is at its service.
Both responsibilities fall under Sweeney’s new title as director of business development for the Greater Oxnard Economic Development Corp.
The goal of the private, nonprofit organization, formerly a part of the city of Oxnard, is to stimulate the Oxnard-Port Hueneme economy by helping to retain businesses in Oxnard and draw companies from outside the area.
“We have a tremendous industrial and manufacturing base in Oxnard, and we want to maintain and retain the jobs and employment we have,” Sweeney said. “We also have thousands of acres of ready-to-go industrial land and tens of thousands of square feet of industrial buildings. Developers are building buildings, some are permitted and can go under construction and some are vacant and available.”
Sweeney, formerly the executive director of the Economic Development Council for rural Skamania County, Wash., said these available sites, along with strong support for business growth, should be attractive to business leaders in and outside the area.
“There is so much potential, it’s mind-boggling,” he said. “I think there’s a real positive attitude to try to create economic opportunities for the city of Oxnard.”
For businesses located in Oxnard and Port Hueneme that are looking to expand within the city, Sweeney will try to identify potential problems before they arise.
“I’ll look for anything that might be a detriment to the business opportunities within the community, whether it’s permit problems or financing or something else,” he said. “We could have a manufacturer that has a need for working capital to expand into a new market. That [capital] is available here, but if they are unaware of that, they may seek assistance in another community.”
To draw businesses from outside the city, Sweeney said, it’s a matter of letting company executives know that Oxnard has what they need to be successful.
In part, he said, that means targeting vendors and suppliers already linked to Oxnard-based manufacturers, selling the import-export benefits of the Port of Hueneme and promoting the overall desirability of the Oxnard region.
“Businesses want some assurances their needs can be satisfied in a given community,” he said. “We tell them about the positive attitude of our City Council, we talk to them about our ability to guarantee permitting, we talk about the relatively high-skilled work force, the good education system, the training programs, the available financing we can bring to the table. And we talk about other manufacturers who have made the decision to move to Oxnard.”
In 1994 and 1995, the EDC, through its efforts to recruit and retain businesses, accounted for approximately 2,800 jobs and $53 million annually in capital investment and purchase of goods and services in the Oxnard area, according to the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project.
Much of that growth can be attributed to the consolidation of GTE’s Thousand Oaks and Oxnard sites into one Oxnard location. The move added about 500 employees to the city’s work force.
Recently, the recruiting effort has paid off with the relocation of Haas Automation from Chatsworth to Oxnard. The high-end machining operation will bring 500 employees to the area by February.
EDC President Steve Kinney said Sweeney’s position was created last year during restructuring of the corporation, which is supported by city funds and outside grants. Though the EDC staff was cut from four people to three, he said, the job of business development director was demanding enough to warrant full-time attention.
“A lot of work goes into making contacts with businesses, helping them get their projects accomplished,” he said. “We’ll simply be able to do that much better now.”
The addition of Sweeney will also allow the corporation to spend more time actively promoting Oxnard to businesses throughout the country and even internationally.
“We haven’t done any outreach marketing of Oxnard up to now,” Kinney said. “We’ve had our hands full just with companies who have heard of Oxnard and contact us. We would like to start going out to certain companies ourselves, those we think would be the best match for the local market.”
Determining which businesses those would be, Kinney said, is the first step.
“There’s bound to be the generic high-tech and light industry,” he said. “But we need to define the areas we are after.”
One of those areas could be the movie industry, Sweeney said. He pointed to the establishment of Bouquet Digital Studio, a movie studio, sound stage and office space under construction at the Pacific Coast Highway and Port Hueneme Road, at the former Raytheon Co. missile factory site.
“We’re particularly excited about that,” Sweeney said. “This brings in a relatively high-tech, creative industry. It’s going to be state of the art in terms of digital multimedia software development. That particular industry has a tendency to cluster--witness Hollywood. If we can offer locations outside the Los Angeles metropolitan area for this type of industry, that’s going to be a real plus.”
Bouquet Digital is scheduled to be operating by the end of summer.