Napa business-license spike points to strong economy

NAPA -- During the first four months of 2014, the volume of business licenses approved by the city of Napa totaled 403 -- averaging more than 100 new ventures per month.

"The rise in business licenses is an overall reflection of the steady rise in economic activity," said Jennifer La Liberte, economic development manager for the city of Napa.

The city said it does not keep records of monthly or annual business license activity, but said the first-quarter spike was highly unusual. The increased activity is spilling over into other areas, officials said.

"Everything is picking up, planning applications, building permits, etc.," according to Robin Klingbeil, economic development project coordinator. "Our inquiry log is full today, compared to 2009 and 2010 when the economy was flat. Now we're really busy."

New retail and restaurant activity also contributed to the volume, along with home-based businesses, office and light industrial firms.

January and February saw 59 and 53 business licenses issued respectively, followed by a significant spike of 202 in March and 89 in April.

"Residential activity is more brisk than usual, including new construction as well as renovation and remodeling," Ms. La Liberte added.

Tracy Thompson, with the city Finance Department, has day-to-day responsibility for handling business licenses.

"The sudden surge in applications overwhelmed our planning and permit groups at first, creating a processing bottleneck, but we are quickly catching up with demand," she said.

Some 56 of the 91 business licenses issued in April were for home-based enterprises, or 62 percent of the total. The remaining 38 percent -- 44 businesses -- were for traditional brick-and-mortar locations.

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