Jennifer Schoeneck is settling in as Deputy Director of Economic Development for the City of Escondido. She is entering her fourth week at the job.
She brings experience in city government, business and nonprofits to her job—which might be described as doing everything she can to facilitate the growth of business in the city.
“I believe I have a unique perspective from a nonprofit lens, a city lens and a business lens,” she said. Almost immediately upon unpacking, she began meeting with the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, the Mercado District and the Downtown Business Association (DBA), “three organizations that are really vital to our business community. I see them as great partners in economic development,” she said.
Schoeneck is excited to meet other business leaders as well. “It’s important to be able to hear what’s happening with businesses on a daily basis,” she said.
Schoeneck (pronounced Shen-eck) grew up in San Diego. When she first moved back to San Diego from the Bay area in 2015, she volunteered for the North County Economic Development Council.
During grad school she sought a degree in international policy and development but “fell in love with local development and how counties, businesses and government interact,” she told The Times-Advocate. “I take a data-driven approach, reviewing data from our GIS department” she says. If GIS doesn’t ring an instant bell, think “data plus maps.”
She wants to understand where the city’s industries are and what the trends are. “Sure, we have a general understanding, but the data tells us how big an industry is and what its growth trajectory is,” she says. Assisting her is Sylvia Atwan, management analyst, who she describes as “a great resource to our business community.”
Schoeneck’s earlier career included being a project manager for the Innovate 78 consortium, a partnership between the cities along the Hwy 78 corridor, Carlsbad, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos and Vista that promotes business.
Most recently, she worked for acompany international manufacturer— Island Stone in Watsonville, California. Overseeing customer service and marketing she saw first-hand the effects of the pandemic on businesses.
One of her responsibilities as economic development director is interacting with the merchants of Grand Avenue about the rollout of the Grand Avenue Vision project. The project to transform Grave Avenue begins work the early part of next year.
She continued, “People want to know if their parking will be impacted and about road closures.” But they shouldn’t worry: “Most of that will happen at night,” she said. “We will have a clear map on which businesses will be impacted—and when. We are grateful for the support of the business community on this project and we should move on it quickly.”
Another responsibility is updating the city’s Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), last updated in 2018 by previous economic development director Michelle Geller. She describes CEDS “as a roadmap to understand the city’s economic trajectory and strategy.”
Much has changed since 2018, primarily due to COVID. An update of CEDS “gets the staff and the city council on the same page,” she said. CEDs also make it easier to apply for economic development grants, which is another one of her jobs. Most of those kinds of grants will come from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) which has released a lot of COVID relief funding.
The city also has a federal “opportunity zone” that takes in a couple of miles that center on the city hall area as well as Broadway and Grand Avenue. Entities that take advantage of opportunity zones through investment are eligible for preferential tax treatment.
There are incentives for putting capital gains into real estate investment in the zone.
Schoeneck hopes that more businesses and investors will consider the benefits of the opportunity zone“There is a lot of potential for owners to leverage their investment. It’s complicated but I hope more people talk to their tax attorneys about it,” she said.
She will also be telling businesses about the Cal-Competes Tax Credit available for businesses expanding or relocating to California. It is available through the governor’s office. “Not nearly enough businesses apply for this valuable tax credit,” she said.
This income tax credit can be spread out over five years, so businesses with five-year plans are ideal candidates. “The next round opens in January,” she said. “A single business could get a medium sized credit of $500,000. That’s not an uncommon amount to achieve,” she said. “If you are wondering if it’s worth it—it can be.”
She can help businesses connect with the right resources when they are just starting up or wanting to expand. “We have quite a few amazing entrepreneurs and start-ups in Escondido,” she notes.
She also oversees business licenses. “We have been successful in implementing an online system for applying for licenses, so that you can log-in to apply, renew and print your license,” she said.
Managing the city’s property
She also oversees the city’s property portfolio of 400 parcels, half of them very small, but some very substantial. The majority are used by the city for things like parks or water treatment plants, although some are leased to private parties. She will be evaluating these properties over time to determine whether they are being used efficiently.
She emphases “Our department seeks to be data driven and solution focused and we are really focused on our community. We use data to reach decisions on where we are going.”
In the coming months, Jennifer Schoeneck will be concentrating on the mantra-like goal of “business attraction, business retention and expansion.” She adds, “We want to help businesses succeed and for the city to be an attractive place for business.”
To start a conversation with her about your business, call her at 760-839-4587.