San Jose has new strategy to boost business

San Jose

February 8, 2010 7:17:09 PM PST
San Jose is working on a strategy to bolster its recession-battered economy. The major focus is creating jobs.

The health of San Jose's economy is reflected in three empty store fronts in just one downtown block. It is measured in hundreds of thousands of square feet of empty office along North First Street. The vacancy rate is almost 25 percent -- the result of a national recession on Main Street.

"That shouldn't stop us from doing everything we possibly can to be able to help businesses open here and hire here," says San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo.

So the City Council and the staff of its Economic Development team are embarking on a five-year plan to attract companies large and small. They might waive the $150 fee for a small business permit. They might even give them free parking in city-owned garages. Nearly 600 spaces were available at noon in two downtown lots.

"Obviously if we're not charging new businesses for parking in downtown, we lose that revenue. I have argued that getting a percentage of zero doesn't help us either," says Liccardo.

San Jose wants to retain its car lots because they generate sales taxes, expand its arts and entertainment attractions, and keep its ear out for companies that plan to expand or hire. While nurturing small businesses, like the family-owned House of Nutrition in Willow Glen, a store with only one employee.

"I really don't think there's much they can do for us. I do think that they can fill that North First Street corridor with larger businesses, which will bring money into the city and that'll benefit us," says Phil Keller from the House of Nutrition.

If the strategy succeeds, it will create jobs.

As the week rolls along, the focus will shift from San Jose to the entire Valley when the 2010 Silicon Valley Index comes out, and with it, a major concern that job growth is expected to slow as we come out of the recession.