If you’re reading this story online, chances are the City wants you to participate in their new outreach survey.
Santa Monica has launched an online questionnaire targeted at workers in the technology industry, locally known as Silicon Beach.
According to Jennifer Taylor, Economic Development Administrator for the City of Santa Monica, the local tech community includes over 2,000 businesses that employ more than 23,000 people. She said many individuals live in Santa Monica and when tech workers connect to the community, they can levy their skills on Santa Monica specific problems. However, many companies don’t seem to be deeply rooted here and the City would like to know why.
“They’re an important component of the local economy, generating jobs, services and products for our residents as well as significant revenue for the City that is used to help fund our parks, schools, libraries and emergency services,” she said. “We are also seeing more cases of these creative minds applying technology solutions to help address local problems, such as ParkMe’s real time parking app utilizing City parking data.”
Dan Newbold who created the survey for the city.
“The City is trying to wrap their arms around what’s going on,” he said. “There are a lot of non-traditional companies that are only two or three individuals working out of a co-oworking space or a living room but they have a big presence on the web.”
He said many startups come to Santa Monica specifically to connect to the Silicon Beach community, but they are often transitory, moving on before expanding.
“A lot of times companies will come to Santa Monica to more or less start,” he said. “They come here to get it going, because there are so many similar like minded people here, we have fiber optics, but as soon as they get big and they need space they leave. They can’t afford office space or living. What can we do as a city to help retain these companies as they grow and attract more people to move into Santa Monica?”
The City has been working on developing relationships with the tech community for a while. “To date, our best success has been through the Santa Monica Youth Technology Program. This has been a partnership between the City’s Information Services Department Team (aka our tech guys), about a dozen Silicon Beach businesses and local high school students. For other traditional outreach efforts, we tend to work in partnership with our local business organizations, such as the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Santa Monica Inc. on various outreach opportunities targeting the Silicon Beach sector,” said Taylor.
However, she said the community isn’t as responsive to some of the traditional outreach efforts.
“For example, early morning breakfast meetings don’t tend to attract the Silicon Beach crowd. They’re already quite busy with their own events, from hackathons to mixers, pitchathons to summits. To that end, we’re trying to find synergies for City staff and business support providers to participate in existing Silicon Beach events, meetups and gatherings,” she said. “We recently participated in Silicon Beach Fest 2014 and we also work individually with businesses, such as Edmunds.com, to help identify opportunities for community engagement, such as their recent “Santa Monica Experiences” day as a means to help employees better understand the community where they work. We’re always open to more ideas and partnership opportunities where the City can help support local businesses with employee retention and community engagement. We’re looking forward to the survey feedback to help give us some more ideas on how the City can help support this sector.”
There are 25 questions that ask companies about the ease of doing business in Santa Monica, the technical specifications they need to do business, how involved the business is with the City and what can be done to improve the situation.
“Are these folks in the industry interacting with the community? Or are they driving in and going home? We think it’s a pretty big chunk of our workforce that’s involved in the tech and start up community but they haven’t connected,” said Newbold. “We’re identifying how can we better interface, making the businesses aware of what’s going on in the community.”
Taylor said the city has undergone similar efforts with a few specific industries such as the creative sector or hospitality and the City regularly works with the Chamber of Commerce to interact with the businesses community at large.
“Generally the City works to support all of our local businesses through efforts including the Buy Local Santa Monica campaign and the Santa Monica Alliance”
The survey can be accessed from www.santamonicaalliance.com/silicon-beach-santa-monica or www.smgov.net/hed.