By: Cheryl Scott, Vice President, Kern Economic Development Corporation
Recruiting new businesses to a community is not a job for the faint of heart. It takes hard work, lots of time, and most importantly, a commitment to customer service that spans all organizations participating in the recruitment effort.
In the world of economic development, “customer service” can mean a lot of different things. With that in mind, one of the best things we have to offer in Kern County is the entire recruitment team’s focus to shepherding the project from beginning to end. Assisting a customer from start to finish takes more time and it definitely takes more commitment, but it’s also where the cream (and Kern County) rises to the top.
The journey for many of our clients often begins at their office desk or even in their arm chair at home. That’s because, thanks to technology, executives often begin vetting communities by scouring web sites and looking for a region that could be the right fit for their new or expanding business. In fact, 90 percent of the selection process is usually conducted before an economic development corporation is even contacted. That’s why Kern EDC has developed a web site that provides the data and information executives need, including details on sites that are ready and waiting for new projects. Our weekly updated website also serves as a key resource to keep potential clients and local residents informed of Kern County’s benefits.
The next step in the journey is often a face-to-face gathering between the client and our local representatives. At a recent meeting with a defense contractor looking to relocate 80 jobs to California, it was interesting to see what they found most appealing. These particular clients were especially interested in mitigating costs associated with training new employees. They were happy to learn that On-the-Job training funds could be used to reimburse the company for a portion of their new employees’ wages during training. The real smile came, though, when they learned a member of our team, America’s Job Center, would walk the client through the process and handle the contract preparation, saving the clients’ executive team time and energy. It wasn’t just the program that was appealing, it was the personal assistance we could provide that made the difference. That personal touch isn’t found in every community.
After the deal is sealed, it’s time to make good on our promises and do what we said we’d do. Kern County and our individual communities are arguably the most business-friendly in the state. It costs less to do business here (93% of the national average), and projects can be moved along quickly to meet the company’s requirements (43 EIR’s have been filed since 2010 – most counties filed merely a handful; and only Los Angeles County came close with 28). When Caterpillar was looking to replace its Hayward location with a larger facility, they needed a quick turn-around, room for expansion, and a plentiful and skilled employee pool. Just eight months after inking the deal, the 400,000 sq. ft. parts distribution facility was fully operational at the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center.
But still, even after the company is up and running, the customer service is there. Kern EDC and our partners may not have all the answers ourselves, but we can bring together the problem solvers. It’s a continuing and important process. Businesses are customers, too, and providing them excellent customer service is what sets them up for success in our community. And it’s what sets Kern County apart from our competitors across the state and beyond.