A lot has changed in the economy since Kevin Romick last served as Mayor of Oakley, but he is up to the challenge to help navigate the city towards greater economic development in 2012.
Romick admits compared to his last term, this one will be more difficult.
“2007 was a great year to be mayor. The economy was still humming, businesses were looking at Oakley and people were generally positive on the direction we were headed. This year will be a challenge,” said Romick.
Bringing good paying jobs to Oakley is the Mayors top priority.
Although he acknowledges it will be a lengthy process, Oakley now has the areas zoned for light industrial and business park applications. With the draw of new facilities and development, Oakley now finds itself competing with cities to the west which have many vacancies and offering low rents making it difficult for Oakley to compete.
“Oakley’s largest employee is the Oakley Union Elementary School District. Generally speaking Oakley residents travel too far to find good wages. I’m lucky that I work in Pittsburg,” said Romick.
The way to bring jobs to Oakley is to improve the economic development component of business retention and expansion.
“As a member of the Chamber of Commerce the City of Oakley provides a staff person as a liaison to the Board of Directors so that we can provide technical expertise and someone who can listen to business owners concerns. This allows us to be in touch with our business community,” explained Romick.
The mayor would like to see Oakley attracting new retail, but it’s easier said than done because it’s all about finding the right fit. One of the ways Oakley regularly markets itself is through its membership in the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). This is the trade association of the shopping center industry.
Each retailer will have specific aspects of a site that they need in order to make their economic profile work. The goal for City staff, in the role as an expediter/facilitator, is to find the matches between retailer, developer/property owner and city explained Romick.
“This is not an easy task. We receive many questions of why certain retailers are not sought after by our staff and city leaders, many citizens do not understand that our role is to educate the retailer about our market and find out if there is interest. If so, then we work to match them to a particular site that works best for them and introduce them to the developer who controls that site. It takes hundreds of contacts to come up with a handful of viable candidates,” said Romick.
One potential problem with new development is creating the infrastructure and framework that supports economic development activities.
Many areas within Oakley do not have sewer, storm water or water lines. If a new project makes an application, but needs a $4 million dollar sewer line to be installed first, that project will most likely withdraw its application. That slows down the potential opportunity for the City to process projects that will provide jobs for our residents.
“In the past redevelopment bond funding was used to provide infrastructure to areas that are ready for development but have a development stumbling blocks. Recent court decisions regarding the fate of California’s 400 redevelopment agencies may make funding these projects nearly impossible,” said Romick.
Although creating infrastructure may be a challenge, one benefit Oakley has working for it is the Delta and has slowly been developing and improving areas for tourism and the mayor wants to continue increasing these opportunities.
“Oakley is becoming the premier destination for bass fishing on the West Coast. The western delta presents the finest year-round bass fishing to be found in the West. The economy has certainly been a drag on the tournaments but we must be ready for the eventual turn around,” said Romick.
In 2012, Oakley will be completing its Science Center at Big Break and begin work to establish a creek side environment along Marsh Creek. Oakley still has its many vineyards where the Mayor hopes to continue working with local growers to establish wine tasting facilities and other wine related features.
The city will continue to match willing property owners with growers to maintain and possibly expand our vineyards. The city is currently working with The Agricultural – Natural Resources Trust to create an agriculture mitigation program to preserve farming in Oakley.
No economic plan is complete without redeveloping downtown which the City has already began prepping for a number of years.
The downtown area is currently undergoing additional changes at the Oakley Plaza Shopping Center and CentroMart. The football field length structure, built in 1956, is in store for a face lift, especially with the new restaurants planned along Main Street. Work on these two restaurants, Carpaccio’s and La Costa will begin and finish in 2012.
“To further define Oakley, it will need to have a heart – the center of the community and the center of commerce. This is the vision of the historic downtown area. The City Council made a cognizant decision to locate City Hall in downtown to be an anchor for business and jobs,” said Romick.
The concern now is how the recent California Supreme Court ruling on Redevelopment Agencies Redevelopment will possibly have a negative impact on this project and could halt future plans for upgrading Oakley’s downtown area.
“With the current economic situation, making headway on these tasks will be difficult. But sitting back waiting for things to change is not a real option. We will still attend ICSC meetings selling the virtues of Oakley to anyone who will listen,” said Romick.
With all the challenges that face Oakley in 2012, the Mayor admits there is not a lot he plans to do differently compared to how he served as mayor in 2007. He does, however, want to restate the nickname as “Mayor Everywhere” which was given to him due to his attendance record of attending nearly every event he was invited to.
“I started ‘Monday with the Mayor and Chief of Police’, where we would meet once a month with the community and occasionally include city staff to address specific questions. As soon as I can find a venue we will start up a similar program,” said Romick.
Aside from serving as Oakley Mayor, here is a list of other boards Mayor Romick serves on:
- Chairman of the Board of Directors Tri Delta Transit
- President of the Board of Directors East Contra Costa Fire Protection District
- Alternate Commissioner for Contra Costa Transportation Authority
- Member of the Board of Directors for East County Business-Education Alliance
- Member of TRANSPLAN Committee
- The Opportunity Junction Advisory Board
The first city council meeting of 2012 will be held on January 10 at 6:30 pm in the Council Chambers, 3231 Main Street, Oakley, CA.