Transitioning into a Post Pandemic Strategy with Concord, CA
We recently were able to speak with Marie Suvansin and Robert Carerra from the Concord, California Office of Economic Development. Concord has a robust database with over 11,000 businesses in their community that they are supporting. As they’ve had team members transition, the Concord team has been able to use Bludot as a tool to keep track of all correspondence with business owners in one place.
Below is our conversation where they shared different ways they utilize Bludot, how they began using Bludot Open at the beginning of the pandemic and what new projects their team is working on for business attraction as restrictions have lifted.
Tell me a little more about Concord, CA.
Marie: Concord has about 125,000 residents which is also the largest city in Contra Costa County, and the majority of jobs are within the city.
What are your roles and how long have you been with the city?
Robert: I’m the Economic Development Specialist with the city of Concord, I’ve been in this role for 8 months since I’ve been with the city.
Marie: I’m the city’s Economic Development Manager and I’ve been with the city for over three years.
What’s your community known for?
Marie: Our community is well known for having Hurricane Harbor waterpark and the Veranda, which attracts a lot of families because it's an outdoor mall with a lot of green space. We also are very close to Mount Diablo which is a popular tourist attraction.
On the economic development side, we are known for a big naval weapon station that is becoming a new project that is yet to be announced. GoMentum Station is an autonomous vehicle testing site where a lot of large, national companies test their new technology.
Can you tell me more about the initiatives that have been successful for your department and your relationship with business owners?
Marie: Over the last couple years, we’ve really been focused on helping our community through the pandemic. We’ve been able to leverage the CARES Act Funding and ARPA funding to do various funding to provide pandemic relief. We’ve done two grant programs, and now we are in a process to figure out additional steps that we can take and how to spend the ARPA funding. The first grant program was called the small business grant program which was a $1,000 grant and the other was a commercial rent relief grant which provided $10,000 in grant funding.
I’d love to learn more about the One Concord website.
Marie: Concord First started four or five years ago, but we upgraded the site about a year ago and our goal for that site is to learn more about our city and information that pertains to why you are interested in Concord. If you’re a developer, you can find a link to a parcel data view for example. We also have the pandemic relief information there as well for small business owners.
What goals was your team trying to achieve when it came to Bludot?
Marie: Before we signed with Bludot, we signed on because of the Bludot Open Directory tool. During the early pandemic days, a lot of businesses did not have google profiles or didn’t know where to go. So our staff put in the work and called all the essential businesses in town to get updated business hours and information that our community would need. Word spread amongst the business community which was great, so we got a lot of businesses to build their profiles and the community really benefited from this public database, especially before thankfully businesses learned how to update their digital footprint in other ways in the early pandemic months.
One of the primary uses for the Bludot CRM is using it as a retainer of information over the years. It’s great that users can see background information on a specific business so that everyone is in the loop.
Robert: Coming from a previous city and now being in Concord, I’ve seen that one challenge that cities face is how to do succession planning when people come and go as to making sure that information is passed along accordingly. Bludot having the chronological timeline of communication on business walls really helped me get up to speed so we can help the business owners and make the transition as seamless as possible.
The fact that you can connect your email and it automates the process of retaining emails on the business profiles saves our staff a lot of time by not having to dig through inboxes and being able to find that history in one place.
I’d love to hear more about how you’re using the group email feature.
Robert: We recently emailed all businesses to get feedback from the business community about how the city should be using the ARPA funding. We used the survey builder tool for this so we could email all the businesses and store their feedback all in one spot.
We’ve also used the labels to easily specifically reach out to manufacturing companies to see if they are interested in applying for a regional award.
I’d love to hear more about how you are tracking prospective business projects within Bludot.
Marie: We love that Bludot is such a small early company, so when we provide feedback we can actually help make the product better for us. We have been using this section to track potential projects coming to Concord and use the labels as different project stages. We are excited for Bludot to add more project tracking features to the platform soon for us to use as well.
What advice do you have for others?
Robert: Prioritize communication as a team and have a unified strategy on what information you want to make sure is retained, organized and updated. By creating that strategy, it can be helpful to figure out what tools will be able to accomplish these goals.
What initiatives is your city going to be working on in the upcoming year?
Marie: We just had our goal planning workshop, so great timing! We are looking at our Economic Vitality Strategy to make sure it’s still relevant and beneficial to our business community. We were really focused on retention the past couple years and now that things are going back to a more standard pace, we believe it’s appropriate to focus on business attraction again. We are revisiting that strategy and looking at developing more focused goals that relate to that. By looking at jobs that cannot be done from home, we are focusing on how we can go after attracting some of these industries and what changes are necessary to do that.
Robert: As restrictions are all essentially lifted within the state, we’re figuring out show we plan to shift our strategy to continue to support our businesses in our Concord Forward Action Plan that was implemented as an emergency order at the beginning of the pandemic.