Campbell finalizes economic plan with mixed business response

Campbell’s latest economic development plan is receiving mixed reviews from business owners after its first update since 2017.

The three-year plan, unanimously adopted by the Campbell City Council in April, aims to address three areas of economic growth: filling vacancies, preserving its commercial sector and creating a vibrant downtown center. While the city is working to fix a nearly $4 million deficit ahead of the next fiscal year, City Manager Brian Loventhal said the plan’s strategies could help better balance the budget in the future.

“The proof will be in the pudding,” he told San José Spotlight. “I could see us in a couple of years looking back and saying, ‘Thank God we did that.’ We have really now positioned ourselves in the future to have a sustainable economic development plan, one that is not cyclical, one that can truly be timeless.’”

Sammy Cai, Campbell native and owner of RU/SH Fitness, opened his business in mid-April and is excited to be located in the heart of historic downtown. Photo by Annalize Freimarck.

While only 7% of commercial space in Campbell is empty, office space has a 30% vacancy rate, which the city largely attributes to employees working from home, according to 2023 data. To address that , Loventhal said Campbell has streamlined the permitting process and plans to work with brokerage firms to direct his clients to a location in the city. The plan also emphasizes maintaining the city’s Industrial Area along east and south McGlincy Street and Dell Avenue, which Loventhal said collects the most sales taxes for city revenue.

Dan Orloff, president of the Campbell Chamber of Commerce, said he supports the plan because he believes the city is doing the best it can to support new businesses on a limited budget.

“(It) protects various economic streams, such as industrial and retail service sectors, that make us less dependent on one climate working better than the other,” he told San José Spotlight. “It just spreads the risk. And that is a success.”

But the city’s new economic strategy does not have the full support of local businesses, despite including input from business owners, the Campbell Chamber of Commerce, real estate agencies and councillors.

Downtown Campbell Business Association Vice President Mike VanSant, who has owned olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop The Olive Bar for five years, said he doesn’t feel heard by local officials when it comes to business needs. He said the downtown association organizes many of Campbell’s events on a voluntary basis, such as the Easter Parade, and has not received much help from the city. He is all for a new approach to economics if it is more than just empty words.

“They launch all kinds of programs like this, and do they represent a lot? No,” she told San José Spotlight. “We are the people who attract business because we are the people who organize all the events. “We make the culture here.”

The plan comes at a time when the city also has to balance its goal of more than 3,800 new homes by 2031 in line with state mandates, while increasing its commercial footprint.

Sammy Cai, owner of RU/SH Fitness, opened his gym around April 15. As a new business owner and Campbell native, he said he has seen good foot traffic downtown. He supports the city’s efforts to revitalize its economic growth.

“So far I have been very happy here,” he told San José Spotlight. “Something in the heart of downtown Campbell, I don’t think it gets any better than that.”

Contact Annalize Freimarck at [email protected] or continue @analise_ellen on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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