In a struggling economy, you’d think the last thing the Sacramento Area Commerce & Trade Organ-ization would be is choosy.
That’s not to suggest SACTO ever tells a company that’s interested in the Sacramento region not to locate its business here, but the organization does have a strategy guiding the kinds of businesses it goes out to recruit. That approach might seem counterintuitive in our current economic climate, but it’s been a winning strategy for the region and for SACTO, which has had one of its busiest years.
“We’re right in the middle of a five-year business-attraction plan that’s focused on bringing the Sacramento region to a new level on the global stage,” says Barbara Hayes, SACTO’s executive director. “A primary goal of that plan is to ensure more than half of the companies we attract are what we call ‘high-value companies.’”
High-value companies are those that, compared to others in their particular industries, offer higher-than-average pay, provide a higher-than-average value of product or service
and have a higher-than-average “multiplier,” or overall impact on the economy. Of the 11 new companies brought to Sacramento this year, including OptiSolar, Frontier Wind and Smorgon Steel, six of them meet or exceed that high-value threshold. And nearly half are in the clean technology sector, further positioning Sacramento as a clean tech hub—one that is in solid competition with cities such as Phoenix, Seattle and Portland, Ore.
SACTO estimates that the 11 companies combined are expected to bring more than $735 million in capital investment to the region and create more than 1,600 jobs.
The factors that contribute to creating a first-tier regional economy go beyond dollars and jobs, however. Nurturing these companies so they can grow and continuing to attract the kinds of jobs that will make it possible for the region’s enormous talent pool to stay local are the critical “B-side” of any region’s overall economic health.
“Our goal is to go above and beyond helping companies land here; we work to provide the networking opportunities they need to get integrated with our economy and really take off,” Hayes says. “Many of these companies will operate nationally from here, if not internationally, so we want to make sure they excel. Any one of them could be the next Fortune 500 company.”
Many companies come here for the region’s quality of life, location, access to decision makers in government and proximity to talent at UC Davis, Sacramento State and other area institutions. For too many years, however, there’s been a substantial brain drain out of Sacramento, as highly skilled workers have been lured to other regions where they can make more money or where there are simply more opportunities. In short, they go to first-tier economies. By focusing on high-value companies, SACTO is creating the kind of opportunities that will keep those professionals here.
“As a whole, a first-tier economy provides a perfect mix of everything companies and their employees need to develop, grow and succeed,” Hayes says. “Halfway through our five year plan, I’m pleased to say we’re hitting all of our targets and we’re excited about introducing our newest batch of arrivals to the community.”
To make those introductions, SACTO will be hosting its 2009 Salute to New Industry luncheon on Thursday, March 12 at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento. More infor-mation is available by calling SACTO at (916) 441-2144. In the meantime, here’s some information about several of the companies SACTO has helped bring to the region this year.
GREGORY MOUNTAIN PRODUCTS
What the company does: Designs and produces backpacks for a full range of outdoor activities
What’s unique: Here in Sacramento, this backpacking-industry market leader will be “thinking up” the latest technologies and innovations in backpack design and fabricating prototypes directly on site.
Why Sacramento: “After 30 years in San Diego, we knew we had to make a change from both a talent and a cost standpoint,” says president John Simons. “We looked at several areas, and Sacramento offered the most of what we were looking for: It’s a green and environmentally conscious city, it’s an up-and-coming region, it’s a good place to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle, it’s an affordable place to live, and it offers a great quality of life.”
Current employees: 30
Location: 1414 K St., Suite 100, Sacramento
ADVANCED DATA CENTERS
What the company does: Provides 500,000 square feet of space corporate customers can use to store their crit-ical IT infrastructures (servers, storage, routers, etc.)
What’s unique: Despite providing 45 to 90 megawatts of power, Advanced Data Center’s McClellan facility has
been pre-certified LEED Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council for its green building design and extraordinary energy efficiency.
Why Sacramento: “We think Sacramento is the best place on the West Coast for a data center like ours,” says president Michael Cohen. “There’s plenty of low-cost power, no earthquakes, and it’s easy to get to and from. It makes so much more sense than San Francisco.”
Current employees: 4, plus contract workers
Location: Corporate headquarters: 485 Pacific Ave., San Francisco
TITAN WORLDWIDE INDUSTRIES INC.
What the company does: Manufactures and acts as a worldwide wholesale distributor of ladders and steel scaffolding
What’s unique: With its current staff of two employees and a forklift, Titan Worldwide Industries’ Sacramento site will be distributing its product to customers everywhere west of Colorado.
Why Sacramento: “We were serving West Coast customers from sites in Illinois and Georgia,” says general manager Peter Petitjean. “We looked everywhere from Colorado west and found Sacramento was the most viable option from the standpoint of transportation infrastructure, quality of potential employees and quality of environment.”
Current employees: 2
Location: 1329 N. Market Blvd., Suite 200, Sacramento
SMA AMERICA INC.
What the company does: Distributes, services and repairs inverters—a key component in turning sunlight into usable electricity
What’s unique: Don’t let SMA America’s apparent small size fool you; they’re one of the biggest little companies you’ve never heard of. Worldwide, SMA’s parent company enjoys nearly a 40 percent market share and this past year earned roughly $600 million.
Why Sacramento: “We really value our employees and pride ourselves on a high retention rate,” says Jurgen Krehnke, SMA America’s president and general manager. “When we realized it was time to move out of our Grass Valley location, it was important to go someplace where employees would want to stay with the company. Sacra-mento is also becoming a hotbed for clean and renewable technologies, and with I–80 and I–5 right here, we have access to the entire West Coast.”
Current employees: 50
Location: 4031 Alvis Court, Rocklin
What the company does: Develops, finances and installs solar systems for property owners
What’s unique: Enfinity Corporation makes it possible to enjoy the benefits of solar energy without the cash outlay. Most people understand the cost-savings potential with solar energy, but few are willing or able to pay the upfront costs for the systems and equipment. The company designs, finances and installs the system, then sells the electricity it generates to customers and bills them on a monthly basis.
Why Sacramento: “We wanted to be in a city,” says Dirk Eeraerts, CEO. “We like being able to walk to a place for food or coffee. We looked in the Bay Area, but the costs were unacceptable. In Sacramento, we found more reasonable costs with a healthy pool of experience, both in terms of the work force and the kind of companies that are coming here.”
Current employees: 7
Location: 1414 S St., Sacramento
What the company does: Acts as a wholesale distributor of a host of renewable energy products, including photovoltaic solar panels as well as wind and hydrothermal equipment
What’s unique: AEE Solar’s primary goal is to provide renew-able energy, but that means more than just moving product; there’s also a major objective to bring new entrants into the market. The company works to sign up new dealers and give them the training to launch their own dealerships—and be successful—in the renewable energy field.
Why Sacramento: “We were looking for a progressive and environmentally friendly city that could attract high-caliber talent,” says David Katz, president and CEO. “We found that in Sacramento, along with a region that also met our desire for access to a major airport and proximity to our major customer base.”
Current employees: 30
Location: 1121 Striker Ave./1137 Striker Ave., Sacramento
DREXEL UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR GRADUATE STUDIES
What the company does: Offers a range of graduate degree programs
What’s unique: Drexel University has been ranked as one of the most innovative universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Its focus is on experiential learning. Graduate programs involve “real world” work experience as part of the curriculum; students benefit from up to three full-time job experiences by the time they graduate. Drexel is currently offering four master’s degree programs in Bus-
iness Administration, Higher Education, Information Systems, and Library and Information Science. In Sept-ember, plans call for the addition of five more programs.
Why Sacramento: “As a nationally ranked private university, we saw in Sacramento an extraordinary place to bring our distinctive approach to education,” says Tobey Oxholm, Drexel’s dean and CEO. “We’re looking forward to a long relationship with this region.”
Current employees: To be determined.
Location: 1 Capitol Mall, Sacramento