By Mario Giuliani
In October, the city of Benicia received the coveted and prestigious IEDC (International Economic Development Council) “Excellence in Economic Development” Award for their new Business Resource Incentive Program. This new program, an implementation strategy identified in the city’s recently adopted Business Development Action Plan, was designed to marry the city’s two top priorities; economic development and sustainability.
Benicia, a quaint waterfront community of 26,000 residents, is nestled between the Carquinez Strait and the rolling hills along the Interstate 780. The Benicia Industrial Park located along the Interstate 680 corridor is Benicia’s alter ego. Though a bit grittier, it is Benicia’s economic engine. It encompasses some 3,000 acres with approximately 19.5 million square feet of industrial and business space, 450 businesses and 6,500 employees.
The Benicia Industrial Park (BIP) is home to manufacturing (including the Valero Refinery), wholesale trade, transportation, suppliers to Bay Area petro chemical industry, environmental services and port operations located along side new software, biotech and information technology firms. Benicia’s industrial park produces 84% of the all local tax revenue, including sales, property and utility user taxes. The fiscal health of the City of Benicia is closely tied to the success of the businesses in the BIP.
With the voluntary goal to reduce greenhouse emissions by 10 percent below the city’s 2000 level by 2020 and the knowledge that the BIP contributes disproportionately to the city’s overall amount of greenhouse gas emissions, the city faced a dilemma; to regulate or incentivize greenhouse gas reduction? Benicia’s new Business Resource Incentive Program was developed to incentivize businesses in the BIP to make resource and management modification and improvements that incorporate sustainable practices that reduce energy, water, solid waste, recycling, and fuel costs as a way for businesses to improve their “bottom line”.
The program includes the following key features:
- Professionally prepared resource and management analysis that provides businesses with recommended sustainability improvements, including cost estimates and ROI, at no cost.
- Low-cost financing and reimbursement to implement recommended improvements undertaken by businesses.
- Web-based tracking through greentraks.com to monitor greenhouse gas reductions and to help businesses manage resources.
- Workshops and training offered to business management and employees.
In this challenging economic time for local government, Benicia funded this program from a unique source, the Valero Good Neighbor Settlement Agreement. Recommendations on the use of these funds are vetted by the city’s Community Sustainability Commission and approved by the Benicia City Council.
IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. These awards honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
Mario Giuliani (707-746-4289) is manager for the city of Benicia Office of Economic Development.
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