Martinez City Council debates Northern Waterfront cities collaboration

Martinez News-Gazette Reporter

MARTINEZ, Calif. – The Martinez City council will consider a plan to collaborate with Contra Costa County and six other waterfront towns to execute a Strategic Action Plan aimed at creating dynamic economic growth along the 60-mile northern county waterfront.

The Northern Waterfront Economic Development Initiative (NWEDI) is a city-county regional effort to create and sustain good jobs along the historic industrial northern waterfront of the county, according to a report from Zach Seal, Martinez senior management analyst (report available on City website, at Council Agenda, July 17).

Economic Development Manager Amalia Cunningham is expected to make a presentation to the council tonight. She will outline results of an effort began in 2003, with the support of Federal Glover, now representing Martinez on the County Board of Supervisors.

In 2013, the Supervisors authorized the Department of Conservation and Development to do a study and make a map of the waterfront, including unincorporated areas. There was a public forum with stakeholders in 2014, and in 2017 the supervisors unanimously approved a scope of work and budget to create a Strategic Action Plan for accomplishing NWEDI goals.

One objective is to attract advanced, clean technological industries serving the agriscience, aerospace and bio/medical sectors of the economy.

NWEDI partners and research helped to identify some business challenges such as financing, marketing, regulatory environment, high cost of property and utilities, finding qualified workers and the competion with developers converting industrial land to residential use. That drives up industrial land prices and creates conflicts caused by the close proximity of differing land uses.

The Strategic Action Plan suggests an “Industry Cluster Approach” and a roadmap for better ways to use the waterfront area and encourage a flourishing economy there.

Now Contra Costa County has asked Antioch, Brentwood, Concord, Hercules, Martinez, Oakley, and Pittsburg to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU outlines what each city will do to promote the NWEDI in its effort to leverage the robust Bay Area economy to create and in a sense, restore a strong middle-income job market.

The Northern Waterfront was once home to not only oil refineries but a steel mill, cannery, fiberboard factory, chemical plant and more. There were plenty of good jobs.

Seal reported, “By 1962, almost 40% of the county’s workforce was employed in manufacturing. Today less than 6% of the workforce is employed in the manufacturing sector.”

According to Seal, it is and was logical that industry would find open land, rail, and water transport options beneficial. Now proximity to the economic strength of major metropolitan centers in San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco could be a bonus for industries on the Northern Waterfront.

Contra Costa County and collaborating cities want to bring this to the attention of major investors, businesses, and industries, and invite environmentally sustainable growth. They said that the economic prosperity offered by the NWEDI could result in better pay for workers and reap tax revenue that would help support public services and interests.

The proposed MOU asks the cities to commit to cooperate in marketing campaigns, grant submittals and grant administration for projects that cross jurisdiction line, industry cluster meetings, goods movement studies, mapping, and a joint business development website for the region, if the projects are approved by the City council.

Signing cities would agree to pool staff resources with other NWEDI cities and the county, as well as participate in cost-sharing for NWEDI projects when possible.

Jurisdictions are reportedly not obligated to contribute funds to a project without city council approval, and cities can reserve the right to limit staff time to an amount that each city deems appropriate. Also, signing the agreement will not fall under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines.

The cities would agree to cooperate in marketing campaigns, grant submittals and grant administration for projects that cross jurisdiction line, industry cluster meetings, goods movement studies, mapping, and related joint business with City council approval.

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