The San Jose Business Journal has a terrific story about Sunnyvale’s approach to economic development, from Connie Verceles, the woman who makes it happen. We do things in our own way in Sunnyvale, and we’ve been hugely successful along the way. The article hits on the two real keys to Sunnyvale’s economic success:
1. Our One-Stop Permitting
For decades, we’ve worked hard to streamline the approval process, so that Sunnyvale moves “at the speed of business”. This is extremely important, because businesses are easily turned off by bureaucracy. And we do this without sacrificing control over development. We’ve worked hard to break down approvals into different groups, so that these things over here must have Council approval, and these other things only require Planning Commission approval, and these other things only require staff review, and these final things are just paperwork tasks. And we’ve made each of those as straightforward as possible. This has been a huge part of Sunnyvale’s economic development – we think like businesses think. And we’re better than the others at doing this.
2. No Incentives!
As a policy, we never give incentives to businesses. This seems like a negative, but it’s actually hugely positive. When a company gets an incentive, it expects to keep getting that incentive or else it will leave. And the relationship between the city and the company becomes defined solely by that incentive. We don’t do that. Instead, Sunnyvale works hard to be a partner with our businesses, so that we can support them and they can support us. A strong working relationship is much more effective than a bribe, and we take that to heart.
And all of this goes back to Connie and her Economic Development staff. They’re the ones who build and maintain those relationships, they’re the ones who keep track of what works and what doesn’t, and they track the office and storefront vacancies to help businesses get started. Simply put, they are our business goodwill ambassador, and then some.
And that’s why we win.