Grover Beach is a community-oriented beach city with a lot to offer, and it starts with their ideal location. Situated halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco and 20 minutes south of San Luis Obispo on California’s Central Coast, the city offers over 300 days of sunshine a year, as well as easy transportation access to both business and recreational opportunities. That convenience – when combined with affordable housing, affordable commercial and industrial spaces, and a pro-business culture – makes Grover Beach “a great place to spread your wings,” as the city motto goes.
At the same time, Grover Beach is also a city with ambitions led by a visionary City Council. Officials aim to bring a youthful, vibrant culture to the community. They want to get the word out on what Grover Beach has to offer to residents, tourists, and new business. They want to create a new image for the city.
Enter Matthew Bronson, City Manager. He was hired in May 2016 to help carry out that vision.
“I was drawn to Grover Beach for the opportunity to work in a beautiful and charming coastal community, but one that had aspirations to become even more vibrant,” he says. “I was excited by the city, and excited by the challenge.”
At the time he came on board, Matthew says he saw a community of over of 14,000 that was “poised for greatness.” He viewed it as a prime location for tourism, business, and development. He thought that with some improved infrastructure, businesses would see the city as an economically vibrant location.
Matthew was correct in his assessment. In the last few years, Grover Beach has undergone myriad improvements, and industry has taken notice – in particular, the cannabis industry. Several significant cannabis facilities have been developed in the community, including manufacturing and distributing facilities, as well as retail store fronts. Grover Beach is now poised to become the commercial cannabis centre of the Central Coast.
Matthew credits the community’s recent success, in part, to the commitment the City Council made into building a public-private broadband fiber-optic network. Around the time Matthew came on board, the Grover Beach City Council had approved the first phase of a 10-year agreement with Digital West Networks Inc. to bring high-speed fiber-optic internet connectivity to the community’s commercial-industrial areas. That rollout has since made the city a more appealing destination.
“We know that high-speed internet is essential for modern business,” Matthew says. “That’s why we embarked on a public-private partnership to bring in the fastest internet service available in our area. We want to support future businesses, to help them meet their business needs more effectively.”
He also credits the city’s land opportunity – Grover Beach has the largest industrial acreage anywhere within their part of the county, for example, and their land is not as expensive as the land in other communities around the area.
Grover Beach is also committed to helping local business succeed, and to making it simple to set up shop. Matthew believes that attitude has gone a long way in recent years.
“We have taken steps to expedite our business development review process,” he explains. “We realize the importance that businesses play in supporting our economy, and we know that time is money, so we are helping businesses get through the process as quickly and efficiently as they can.”
Where business can flourish
In recent years, Grover Beach has worked to attract a variety of businesses to their beachfront. Hotel developments, for example, are one of their priorities.
The city has approximately 400 new hotel rooms in the development pipeline given the city’s prime coastal location. One of those projects is the long-in-development Grover Beach Lodge project, which is a unique partnership between the City and California State Parks to transform a dirt beachfront lot at the end of the city’s main street into a 144-room, four star hotel with meeting space for business.
There’s also the aforementioned cannabis industry, which the progressive Grover Beach City Council has been excited to work with. Roughly 10 cannabis-related businesses have commenced operations with another 14 permitted businesses working through the development process. Though four of those are retailers, Matthew sees Grover Beach not just as a future hub of retail activity, but of manufacturing, processing and distributing for the local industry.
“We’re also trying to attract technology companies,” he adds. “We’d like to bring some start-ups that would are interested in working an incubation space next to the beach. We believe our high-speed internet service will help with that.”
In addition, Matthew also hopes to see more restaurants, cafes and breweries in the area. The goal is to create a “hip and vibrant” culture around the city, he says, and they will welcome any business that helps them build that culture.
Grover Beach will also work with those businesses when they need assistance. As a community with mostly smaller to mid-sized businesses – exceptions include a large grocery store and a large manufacturer of bicycle apparel – the City practices a “down-to-earth” approach to customer service.
“We’re a small community, so folks can walk right into city hall and be able to talk to planners, to the Community Development Director, or to myself if they have any issues or questions,” Matthew says. “We pride ourselves on providing a customized, personal service to our business customers.”
“We also work very effectively with the South County Chamber of Commerce,” he adds. “We work closely with them to make sure we’re aware of business needs, that we’re considering their input, and that we’re making policy decisions based that will help local business be successful.”
“Our City Council is very pro-business,” he says. “They are pro-development in the right places and the right ways. The Council approaches their policies based on an appreciation of what businesses do in the community. We recognize that they’re the backbone to our economy, and we do what we can in city government to provide an environment where they can flourish.”
In order to provide that kind of environment, city government has turned their attention to improving local infrastructure, including city streets. In the past, the condition of city streets was often “neglected,” Matthew says, with maintenance being deferred over a long time given limited funding. Recently, however, voters approved nearly $50 million in funding to help improve local streets – which is a very significant investment for a city of Grover Beach’s size.
In response, over the last few years, the city has been busy upgrading their streets – repaving neglected streets, adding sidewalks, adding curb ramps, and more. By 2020, they will have repaired 50 per cent of all local streets.
At the same time, the city has also been hard at work upgrading 50-year old water and sewage infrastructure. Related to that effort, they have engaged in a regional recycled water partnership called the Central Coast Blue project. That project involves designing and building a new advanced water purification facility, which will treat wastewater and then inject it back into their groundwater basin. It is projected to increase the city’s water supply by 30 per cent.
Finally, Grover Beach is also home to an AmTrak train station, which is currently in the midst of a significant expansion and enhancement. Parking, landscaping, safety, and bus and train connections are all being improved – as is the “overall customer experience,” Matthew says, with the goal being to create a “premier regional multi-modal transportation facility.”
“We are literally rebuilding the city from the ground up,” he explains. “And by making those investments and carrying out the City Council’s vision, we are signalling to the business community that we are committed to making this a place where they can be successful.”
“We want to send the message that Grover Beach is open for business,” he concludes. “We value our business community – we want to attract new ones, retain the ones we have, and create a more thriving city as a result.” For more on Grover Beach – including tourism information, as well as business resources – visit http://www.grover.org/index.aspx?NID=120