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Business Spotlight: Riverside Auto Center

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

The Riverside Auto Center is comprised of 13 independent auto dealerships and has been an important part of the local Riverside business community for almost 50 years. The Auto Center is also a significant employer in the City with a combined workforce of over 1,500 employees and the dealers are a major contributor to the City’s local tax base as vehicle sales are one of the City’s largest sources of sales tax generation.

The Riverside Auto Center was one of the earliest auto centers constructed in the United States and originated in a discussion among five dealers.  It was opened in February, 1965 on a 55 acre site with seven dealers at a cost of 8 million dollars, was totally financed by the dealers with no public subsidy. Dick Clark was part of the dedication ceremonies for the center, and you could buy a new Mercury for $2,150 with a 4.5% interest loan. Total sales tax collected the first year of operation was $1.1 million.

The Auto Center recently installed a new state-of-the-art, LED sign to replace the previous obsolete and inefficient incandescent State Route 91 sign. The new sign, located adjacent to the freeway, is a substantial improvement to the Riverside Auto Center’s advertising capabilities.

The major dealers in the Auto Center include: Acura of Riverside, BMW Riverside, Carmax, Dodge Moss Motors, Dutton Motors, Fritts Ford, Lexus of Riverside, Riverside Chevrolet, Riverside Honda, Riverside Mazda, Riverside Nissan, Toyota of Riverside and Walters Auto Sales. Many of these dealers were listed as Top 25 Producers in the third quarter 2013 Sales Tax Update, further proving the significant impact the dealers have on Riverside sales tax revenues. 

Third Quarter 2013 Shows Significant Retail Sales Gains

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

The City of Riverside third quarter 2013 sales tax update shows gross receipts for July through September sales were 7.9% higher than the same quarter one year ago. Actual sales rose 9.8% net of accounting anomalies. Robust sales and leasing activity from both new and used car dealers lifted automotive group returns. The top 5 sales producing business types were: Auto Lease, Electronics/Appliance Stores, Light Industrial/Printers, Used Automotive Dealers and New Automotive Dealers. Auto and Transportation sales tax shows steady growth from the same quarter a year ago as well.

Adjusted for one time reporting events, sales and use tax receipts for all of Riverside County increased 5.9% over the same period just above Southern California regional totals which were up 5.3%. 

To read the full Q3’2013 Sales Tax Update prepared by HdL Companies, click here. 

Downtown Riverside Continues to Thrive in 2014

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

(Photo Credit: Press Enterprise, Stan Lim/Staff Photographer)

Downtown Riverside has seen continued investment over the past several years and new interest in dining and entertainment continues to grow. Within the last year alone, downtown has seen several new restaurants, bars, and coffee shops open their doors bringing in new customers to experience the vibrant atmosphere in the historic core.

One of the new restaurants to open in 2013 is Heroes Restaurant & Brewery (3397 Mission Inn Ave.) whose owner, Nick Montano chose to open his restaurant in Riverside after experiencing the growing energy in downtown. Montano is fully committed to making Heroes a place for all Riversiders to enjoy, saying “Every community we go into we dive head first.” He has made this clear having already established a partnership with UCR Athletics to host the live broadcast of the Coach’s show every Tuesday with future collaborations in the works. Heroes also held a fundraiser for Toys for Tots at the restaurant in December and plan to build even more relationships with the community.  

The restaurant opened in October 2013 and experienced their first ever Festival of Lights which took them by surprise, “Festival of Lights was crazy but we have come back to reality now” Montano remarked. Heroes is a restaurant for all to enjoy including families, sports fans, college students and craft beer aficionados. The Brewery piece of the restaurant came to life in December when they launched the first three of their craft brews. Nick said, “We’re at the tip of the iceberg with what we plan to offer to the community.” Now a total of five beers brewed on site are available and the they plan to host beer festivals, beer of the month and special release beer tasting nights in the near future. 

Investment in downtown is continuing into 2014 with Mezcal Cantina y Cocina, a new restaurant opening at the corner of Main St. and University Ave. and a craft cocktail bar, W. Wolfskill from the owners of The Salted Pig opening at 4281 Main St. The entertainment options will continue to grow with the Fox Performing Arts Center and Municipal Auditorium under the management of Live Nation. These world-class entertainment venues will host many high profile performers this year including Bill Engvall, Willie Nelson, Wayne Brady and more to be announced. 

Downtown Riverside continues to be a destination with so many dining, entertainment and nightlife options to choose from and more to come throughout 2014.

The Press Enterprise published an excellent article about the growth of downtown on January 16, click here to read the full article.

RPU Recognized as Finalist in NAIOP-IE REXIE Awards Public Partner of the Year

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

NAIOP Inland Empire Chapter hosted the annual Real Estate Excellence Inland Empire Awards (REXIE) to honor the best of the best in commercial real estate for 2013. Riverside Public Utilities (RPU) was named a finalist for Public Partner of the Year for the Utilities’ Temporary Economic Development Rate which has successfully helped to create or retain over 2,500 jobs within RPU’s service territory since 2010.

RPU offers its Economic Development (ED), Business Retention (BR) and Temporary Economic Development (TED) rates to attract and retain large, expanded electric load and new commercial customers. Building on the success of the existing ED and BR rates, RPU recognized a need for a new rate tool that would target at medium sized commercial electric customers. The TED rate was launched in 2013 to stimulate the slowly recovering local economy through business expansion and relocation. This rate, which is available through 2015, offers qualifying RPU electric customers a 30 (through 2013), 20 (through 2014), and 10 (through 2015) percent discount (up to 60% in energy cost savings over the first three years of operation). End users such as restaurants and distribution centers have been able to take advantage of this new rate. Not only has the TED rate program helped reduce commercial property vacancies, the program has also helped these businesses save nearly half a million dollars in energy costs, thereby reducing their operating costs during the first three years of operation.

Specifically, RPU’s new TED rate has resulted in the following successes:

  • New Jobs 436
  • Real Estate 1,000,000 square feet occupied
  • New Private Investment $5.8 million
  • Estimated Annual Electricity Revenue Pre‐Discount $714,715
To learn more about the RPU Economic Development Rate and Temporary Economic Development Rate, click here.

CIO Lea Deesing Details How Tech Aids Economic Development

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

(Photo Credit: GovTech Magazine)

Riverside Chief Innovation Officer Lea Deesing was featured in StateTech Magazine for her work leading the City’s Information and Technology to foster economic development in the community.

When asked how the City is using IT to spur economic development, Deesing said:

“I report directly to the economic development branch of the city, and IT is treated as a core operational asset toward economic and job growth. Being the “City of Arts and Innovation” is not just a title — we actively seek ways in which we can innovate to compete for economic growth to attract new businesses with high-paying jobs, bring homebuyers to the area, retain college graduates and more.

Jim Clifton’s book, The Coming Jobs War, says it all — we need local tribal leaders to come together to find ways to create jobs. Technologists are no exception. We must all collaborate and contribute to propel our organizations into prosperity. We’re all critical to economic development, revenue generation and the future.”

An example of these efforts is shown through the SmartRiverside High Technology Tenant Improvement Program. Under this program grants may be awarded to small technology companies with sales of less than $20 Million per year in an effort to help offset tenant improvement costs for small technology companies, allowing them to redirect capital. Learn more about the Tenant Improvement Program, here.

When asked what her vision is for Riverside as a smart city Deesing emphasized the importance of partnerships:

“We must focus on narrowing the digital, economic and opportunity divide within our region. One key element in realizing economic prosperity is to give our residents and businesses opportunities that come with high-speed Internet access.

With continued focus on economic development, collaboration, innovation and leadership, Riverside is well positioned to continue its journey toward economic growth and prosperity in our region. We have all of the necessary ingredients in place to get there.”

To read the full article from State Tech Magazine published January 23, 2014, click here.

Business Spotlight: Olfactor Laboratories Inc.

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Mayor Bailey tours OLI's Insectary

Olfactor Laboratories Inc. (OLI), located at 1140 Citrus Street, is developing the world’s first products based on ieCrowd’s patent-pending technologies capable of blocking mosquitoes’ (and other blood-seeking insects’) ability to detect carbon dioxide. ieCrowd’s technology has been supported by federal agencies, large foundations, non-profits, and experts from around the world and has been considered one of the “biggest breakthroughs” against mosquito-borne diseases.   

At its inception, OLI acquired the exclusive, worldwide license rights to a compound set from the laboratory of Dr. Anandasankar Ray at the University of California, Riverside. The work at the UCR campus was focused on identifying compounds capable of manipulating CO2 receptors and was featured in the world-renowned scientific journal Nature (2011).

Today, based on an OLI developed patent-pending list of compounds that can disrupt a mosquito’s host-seeking behavior, OLI’s products can effectively prevent mosquitos and other vector insects from finding blood-meal hosts – and therefore have the potential of dramatically altering the transmission rates of deadly, insect carried diseases among human and other animal populations.

OLI  has developed a small, square patch called the Kite Patch that emits chemical compound essentially makes the wearer invisible to mosquito by blocking a mosquito’s ability to sense a human. In a recent crowd-funding campaign, OLI raised over $550,000 from 11,254 supporters, surpassing their goal of $75,000.   In addition to its crowd-sourced capital, Kite received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other investors. Learn more about Kite Patch, here.

OLI is one of several companies developed through the Innovation Economy Initiative (IE Initiative), a business acceleration program designed to assist in the commercialization of emerging technology companies by providing in-depth business guidance, entrepreneurial education and access to capital and service providers. In 2010, the City partnered in launching the IE Initiative by providing a $390,000 grant from redevelopment funds. Since that time, IE Initiative founder Amro Albanna established ieCrowd and has branded his location as the Innovation Center. ieCrowd’s mission is to “find the world’s biggest innovative breakthroughs and transform them in to real innovative solutions that can impact the lives of people around the world”.

Learn more about OLI on their website, here.

Business Spotlight: OctoClean

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

OctoClean is a family-owned, family-run business with a goal of redefining the janitorial industry. Chuck and Yvonne Stowe began a janitorial company called Service Pros in 1991, which proved successful and led the Stowes to decide to expand their business into a larger-scale franchising model. In November 2000, OctoClean was established with 12 existing franchises. Today, OctoClean has expanded to more than 50 franchises in Southern California and continues to grow.

Having doubled its gross sales between 2003 and 2008, OctoClean has positioned itself as an emerging leader in the janitorial services industry. OctoClean’s business plan calls for continued aggressive growth in both the number of active Franchise Owners and the markets in which OctoClean’s services are offered. OctoClean provides services to medical campuses, educational campuses, office buildings, and construction sites. They also provide general janitorial services including carpet care, window washing and floor care.

OctoClean’s Chief Operating Officer Matt Stowe is a member of the Seizing Our Destiny Champions Council and has embraced the vision of Seizing Our Destiny by creating a new partnership between OctoClean and Path of Life Ministries to provide employment readiness training for those in the transitional housing program, fulfilling a key component of the company’s mission to empower and enable people to be successful business owners. 

To learn more about OctoClean, click here.

This article contains content directly from the OctoClean website. 

IE-ASPA Hosts Economic Forum

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

The Inland Empire Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration (IE-ASPA) held an Economic Forum on January 16th in Ontario. Economist Dr. John Husing presented the current state of Inland Southern California’s economy and pointed to key economic indicators that offer optimism in 2014.

The housing market is recovering. The percentage of underwater homes is decreasing while existing home prices are trending upward and new home construction is expected to rise in 2014. The area’s competitive housing price advantage still exists, an important first step toward reviving in-migration from expensive coastal communities. At 45.6% and 47.9% respectively, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties struggle with a greater percentage of the population having educational attainment at high school level or less. However, coastal in-migration continues to bring skills, wealth, income and spending to inland cities and studies show that Southern Californians are willing to work for less to be close to home, providing an incentive for local job growth.

Husing also noted that Office absorption is slowly starting to recover as high-end jobs follow workers into the area. Retail and services jobs are gaining momentum as well, but the sector to watch in the coming months seems to be healthcare. As the Affordable Care Act increases the number of people seeking care more pressure will be placed on an already underserved Inland population. Husing predicts continuous growth across all healthcare sectors including ambulatory, hospital and skilled nursing to meet this rise in demand.

For details on Husing’s presentation, view the PowerPoint at www.johnhusing.com.

RCTC Allocates $152 Million For Local Projects

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

On Wednesday, January 8th, the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) awarded more than $152 million to local jurisdictions for a wide variety of street improvements, expanded freeway interchanges, and active transportation improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians. Funding for the projects comes from the voter-approved Measure A sales tax program, state gas tax revenue, and two federal funding sources. 

“This truly shows the value of the Measure A program,” said RCTC Chair Marion Ashley, a County Supervisor. Every part of the county is receiving funding that will improve mobility and create needed jobs.” “More importantly, having a local funding source enables us to stretch federal transportation dollars to build more projects,” Ashley added.

A total of 33 projects will receive funding during the next two years and 18 local jurisdictions including local cities, the county of Riverside, and the Riverside Transit Agency will move forward with the various projects.

The funding decision comes after local jurisdictions were invited to apply for funding in September. A total of 55 projects were submitted requesting a total of $282 million in funding. The Technical Advisory Committee consisting of public works professionals from jurisdictions around the county evaluated the proposals and made the comprehensive recommendations for funding to the Commission. The Commission ratified the recommendations with a unanimous vote.

The City of Riverside submitted applications for funding and was approved for several projects, including:

  • The Magnolia Avenue Widening Project will increase the capacity of this important arterial roadway by increasing capacity from 4 lanes to 6 lanes by narrowing the median between Buchanan Street and Banbury Drive.
  • The Magnolia Avenue Signal Interconnect Project is a project to replace the existing outdated copper wire interconnect with a fiber optic communication line from Buchanan Street to Third Street to ensure traffic signal synchronization well into the future.
  • The Downtown Metrolink Crossing Study, a Preliminary Engineering study to look at alternatives for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the SR-91, connecting the Riverside Metrolink Station to the Downtown Riverside area.
  • The Santa Ana River Trail Path Project planned to construct a multi-use path along the existing bicycle trail to accommodate pedestrians and other trail users from Martha Mclean Anza Narrows Park to Fairmount Park.
  • The Santa Ana River Bicycle Trail Realignment Project which would realign portions of the existing Class I bicycle path to improve visibility around the vertical and horizontal curves of the trail behind Grassy Trail Drive.
  • The Bicycle Share Program which would install four bicycle stations at key destinations such as the Metrolink Station, the Downtown area, and the University of California, Riverside, to promote bicycle usage.
  • The Bruce Street Sidewalk improvement Project which will install new sidewalk on Bruce Street from Adair Avenue to Lake Street to accommodate pedestrians and students walking to and from Terrace Elementary School.
  • The SR-91/Adams Interchange Study, a Preliminary Engineering study to reconstruct the SR-91 Adams Street interchange to alleviate traffic congestion.

These projects will provide significant improvements to major thoroughfares and recreational trails that will provide for greater efficiency in goods movement and potentially new opportunities for active transportation, both for bicycle commuters and recreational users.  Timing for the projects will vary from one to three years based on the required federal approvals needed for each specific project.

To read the full press release from RCTC, click here

Office of Economic Development Provides Update on Local Business Incubators

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

The Office of Economic Development gave an update to City Council on January 7th focusing on local business incubators and the ongoing efforts of the City to support the facilities in order to encourage entrepreneurial development and facilitate the creation of new businesses. Business incubators play a role in Riverside’s success in developing a vibrant and robust entrepreneurial economy. The report to City Council provides an update on the incubator projects the City has supported which have assisted 11 companies and created approximately 60 jobs to date. To read the full report to City Council, click here

These Incubators include:

  • Bourns Incubator (1200 Columbia Avenue)
    Bourns Technology Centers is home to several emerging high-tech companies and start-ups that represent approximately 25 jobs. Established in 2010, the Bourns Technology Center features approximately 24,000 square feet of multipurpose, light manufacturing and lab space.The space features a wide range of amenities including conference rooms, a cafeteria and workout room, shipping and receiving area, as well as access to the talent and resources of one of Riverside’s most successful technology companies. 
  • ieCrowd (Innovation Center – 1650 Spruce Street)
    ieCrowd’s model has created 20 professional jobs and four administrative jobs; raised private capital, leased nearly 18,000 square feet and launched several companies including Olfactor Laboratories, Inc. (OLI) and Nano Engineered Applications (NEA). Both of these companies were built around research developed at UCR.
  • Vocademy (1635 Spruce Street)
    On October 6, 2013, Vocademy, a do-it-yourself workshop, opened its doors to the public. Dubbed as “The Place to Learn and Make Anything”, this membership-based facility provides members the use of tools, equipment, classes and offices for start-ups in the manufacturing space. Vocademy will be highlighted on a recent episode of “Made in Riverside”. 
  • Riverside.io (3567 Main Street)
    Riverside.io is a coworking space founded by several UCR graduates. A coworking space is a shared working environment. Unlike typical office environments, coworking spaces are usually used by multiple companies and/or organizations. Riverside.io opened on August 6, 2013 and currently has 13 members. 
  • Riverside ExCITE (3499 Tenth Street)
    On October 28, 2013, Riverside ExCITE, a partnership between the City of Riverside, County of Riverside and UCR, established articles of incorporation as a nonprofit. The goal of ExCITE is to establish an incubator in Downtown Riverside and “facilitate the successful incubation and acceleration of start-up companies engaged in entrepreneurial research and development of advanced technologies to create high technology jobs in Riverside County”. To date, two start-up companies, Frackoptima and Zyante, have been accepted as tenants. In an offer of shared investment, the City Manager’s Office was approved for the allocation of funding to RPU to connect the building to the City’s fiber network. This will provide tenants of the facility high-speed internet, a necessary amenity to a successful incubator facility. 
  • Start-up Garage – Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business (4500 Riverwalk Parkway)
    In addition to the incubators listed above, the Office of Economic Development is looking forward to partnering with La Sierra University and their recently opened state-of-the art Zapara School of Business. Two rooms, called “start-up garages”, will function as incubators for students with promising entrepreneurial ideas and business plans. The garages will be outfitted with computers, phones and other necessities at no cost to student entrepreneurs. Students maintain their tenancy in the garage for one school year by meeting quarterly business goals set by the students and approved by administration.

Incubator activities are an instrumental piece of our Economic Development Action Plan. The Office of Economic Development’s Technology Ombudsmen Gregory Lee is an active participant in the Tech CEO Forum that meets on a monthly basis to discuss developments occurring in the local tech related businesses and the Economic Development team will continue to promote the growing inventory of incubators and resources available to entrepreneurs and start-ups considering the region. Additionally, the Office of Economic Development website is currently undergoing a re-design that will include a new section dedicated to our business incubators and entrepreneurial eco-system.

Entrepreneurs can find more information about these incubators and other business resources by visiting www.riversideca.gov/econdev/business-resources or by contacting the City’s Technology Ombudsman, Gregory Lee, at (877) 748-7433.