CARLSBAD — While mostly satisfied by the business climate in Carlsbad, local businesses would like the city to simplify its permit process and fees as well as improve the downtown Village area, according to a recent city survey.
The city currently has a number of projects underway to address these requests and then some to keep businesses, and sales taxes, within the city.
“Ultimately it’s the quality of life and the durability of the business community that attracts businesses to Carlsbad,” said Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ted Owen.
Carlsbad’s proximity to customers and vendors as well as lifestyle have attracted businesses primarily in the action sports manufacturing, life sciences, cleantech, entertainment and hospitality, and information, communications, and technologies sectors, according to the survey and local business owners.
The city draws businesses in these genres due to its proximity to major universities and other like-companies in San Diego, as well as the year-round warm weather, explained Kathy Dodson, director of Carlsbad’s Community and Economic Development Department.
Brian Ganz grew up in Carlsbad and has started two successful life science robotics companies in the city, RoboDesign, now called Rigaku, and Let’s Go Robotics.
By locating his businesses in Carlsbad, he said he takes advantage of being close to his customers, the abundance of business services, support from the city, and proximity to major universities in San Diego.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the most cost effective (operating a business) here. Labor is pretty expensive. But because our customer base is so close, it pretty much washes out,” Ganz said.
“I can always call one of the City Council members if I need anything… but to be honest, I just haven’t needed it,” he added.
Ganz also enjoys the local lifestyle. When asked why he never left the city he said, “I guess I like surfing too much.”
Janet Jacobs relocated her sound systems manufacturing company, Anchor Audio, to Carlsbad in 2010. She said that she and her employees found that the city had better housing, lower cost of living, and better schools than their previous location.
She said that city officials “really went out of their way” to help her business’s transition, particularly when it came to finding a new building.
Though the survey showed that 87 percent of businesses interviewed indicated that Carlsbad was an excellent or good place to do business, the results also identified a number of areas businesses hope the city would improve.
The top request was for the city to simplify its permitting process and the fees associated with doing business in the area.
Jacobs said that she initially hoped to build a new space for her company in Carlsbad, but found building code regulations set by the state and city fees overwhelming. She said that to construct a 35,000 square-foot building she was given an estimate of $208,000 in permitting fees from the city.
Dodson said that the city is already in the process of streamlining its permitting process.
Some of the surveyed businesses also stated an interest in redeveloping the downtown area, which the city has already undertaken with its Village revitalization efforts.
The city has also been pursuing bringing a higher learner institution to Carlsbad to attract more potential employees for local companies.
The city expects to select one of the five higher education bids it received by the end of May, Dodson said.
Furthermore, Carlsbad is initiating a talent attraction program to let businesses and skilled employees know that, “(Carlsbad’s) economy is robust; there are lots of opportunities here,” said Dodson.
Of those surveyed, about 35 percent of businesses said they expected to hire more employees over the next year.
The business survey, the first ever conducted in Carlsbad, was conducted by BW Research Partnership to provide the city with baseline information about local businesses.
“We needed a snapshot of the business community,” said Dodson. “(The survey) helps us provide that roadmap for where the economic development needs to be.”
The survey was based off of interviews with 223 Carlsbad businesses and recent San Diego County business reports.
The city intends on conducting more business surveys in the future, according to Dodson.