From episode: Walnut Creek Assistant City Manager and Economic Development Director Teri Killgore - EPISODE 13 - hosted by Jared Asch
Today, we are joined by Terri Kilgore from the City of Walnut Creek, where she serves as the assistant city manager and overseas economic development. One of the themes of this podcast is to talk about where are our communities going, but it's also important to look at economic development and how cities are continuing to improve post-COVID in the new era with increased online shopping. Walnut Creek has dove into several economic development studies and has a plan for the future of its city to grow.
This blog post was written by AI as a result of the podcast transcript and contains errors. Please review the full podcast episode for more details.
I've been with the city of Walnut Creek for five years now, and it's been a wild five years with COVID thrown in the middle, as everyone has experienced. It's been a pleasure to serve both as the assistant city manager and economic development director. We had to pivot quickly to help keep our businesses open during the pandemic and that involved outdoor dining and streamlining permitting for HVAC systems and other things people needed to do to survive.
It's exciting that we're now back to working on real economic development work is what I would call it, where we're building a strategy and an approach. We took the intentional path of picking an action plan with a two-year horizon. As you mentioned, we did several studies to help inform us on this journey. As you can imagine, most of the data sets that we traditionally rely on, like the census and the American Community Survey, are just really dated and don't reflect the world post-COVID. So we went out to our brokerage community and got some quick updates on the state of the market and different subsectors. We think we've built a plan that is going to set our community up for long-term success. The future is bright for Walnut Creek. We have challenges, as does every community. But we're starting from a really strong base. We're excited to dig in and get working on these elements that will move the ball forward. Awesome. So let's dive into it. I like the fact that you're talking strategy, short-term, long term. A lot of cities are going after just a big fish, right? They looking are to get a company that's going to have five or ten thousand high-paying jobs in there. Walnut Creek has multiple elements in their plans.
The studies kind of reconfirmed a lot of what we already knew about our economy, which is that we are very driven by small to medium companies. We've got some notable headquarters located here as well. But our bread and butter is folks who live in the community work in the community and grow their businesses here. There is one strategy and economic development, like you said, where you go elephant searching and hope to get the one big thing. But that's a really risky strategy. It often takes a very long time to pay off. So you've got to find a very specific niche where you can market what you have available that meets exactly these unique needs of these mega companies. We looked at it and said that that's one approach. But we already have a nice mix of companies in our economic ecosystem. I think the growing wisdom over the years in economic development is it's better to do economic gardening, which is what they call it, when you help your local companies grow, you try to attract similar industries based on industries that are already present. Our big market drivers are medical, finance, insurance, real estate, and a little bit of tech software, more so. Then a lot of small businesses thrive in the retail and restaurant sectors. How do we help those businesses that are here grow? That includes reaching out to them and figuring out who they know, who else might be looking for space, and who their vendors wish were close by so that we can continue to build on the existing strength of our market instead of kind of placing a bet on red and hoping everything just lands perfectly.