Sierra Davis is wearing a slightly different hat these days as a Los Altos city employee.
The 27-year-old Sacramento native assumed the position of economic development coordinator in May, just two years after joining the city as an assistant planner. A Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo graduate with a degree in city and regional planning, Davis began her career as a public employee working as an intern in the city of Morro Bay’s Planning Department – a role that later turned into a permanent full-time position.
More than a month after transitioning to her new role, Davis shared her impressions and goals for the Los Altos business community in an email interview with the Los Altos Town Crier.
Q: You previously worked as an assistant planner for the city. How did that role prepare you for your new position as economic development coordinator?
Davis: It’s very common for economic development professionals to come from either a planning or business development background. The skills I feel will help me the most are my familiarity with the city’s business districts, the residents and the culture.
Having a background in planning also helps because I understand the entire process that new and existing businesses must go through to secure a location, make tenant improvements and expand. I feel like I’ll be able to jump right in as a resource for the business community.
Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in this position?
Davis: In addition to my background in the practical side of city planning and community development, I have experience working in another small community with both veteran business owners as well as those opening their first storefronts.
The route to opening a new business is always the same, but everyone has a different understanding of the regulations and process. I look forward to the opportunity to help business owners navigate through the process, which can feel like a daunting task. By providing guidance, I can help save time and energy, because location, zoning and existing building improvements all play a critical role in starting a new business.
I look forward to finding creative solutions for issues business owners are facing in the community. I’m working with the local business groups to define these challenges now. I also look forward to the opportunity to work with individual business owners to better understand their needs.
Q: What is your early assessment of the economic environment in Los Altos?
Davis: The Los Altos business community is fortunate to have really active business groups. Working closely with the business community and further developing the “shop local” mentality will help strengthen the vitality of our local economy. Residents have a variety of shops at their fingertips, and investing their dollars here in Los Altos will strengthen small businesses and increase sales-tax revenue, which is reinvested in the community.
I think Los Altos is a great environment to work in, and I hope to seek out new opportunities to promote the city and draw more attention to our small-town charm in the middle of the busy Silicon Valley.
Q: Do you have any specific goals in mind as you begin this new opportunity?
Davis: My first goal is to establish myself as a resource for the business community. I want to become a familiar face that business and property owners can rely on for current and accurate information and assistance.
The first project I am working on is an update to the economic development resources on the city website. I want to enhance the user experience and provide accessible information on a variety of business-related topics. I’m also working with various city departments to familiarize myself with current and upcoming projects that affect the business community.
Q: Do you see opportunities for potential private/public partnerships? Any specific ideas?
Davis: Definitely. The city is very open to exploring private/public partnerships that benefit the entire community. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art collaboration among the city, a nonprofit museum and a local development company is a recent example of a unique partnership. The upcoming Third Street Green is another good example of the city partnering with a private business – in this case, Passerelle Investment Co. – to bring back a popular pop-up park space in the downtown this August.
Additionally, the city is currently attending meetings organized by the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce, which is spearheading an effort to bring various community groups, business and property owners together to define a downtown parking solution that can be supported by all involved parties. These types of collaborative private/public approaches to addressing parking challenges can be very successful.
Q: How would you define success in this new role?
Davis: I would define success by the relationships I form with the business community. In my role as a liaison, I would like to be regarded as an approachable and accessible resource focused on enhancing local economic vitality.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
Davis: I’m really looking forward to this exciting new opportunity within the city of Los Altos because I’ve truly enjoyed working here for the past two years.