Business Report: California – Sacramento County Plans For The “Next Economy”

By Shana Daley
From the September/October 2014 issue

Home to the state capital of the world’s eighth largest economy and located in the heart of California’s Central Valley, Sacramento County has a distinguished history of being a center for discovery, trade, transportation and business.

Sacramento County was formed in 1850 as one of the original 27 counties of the State of California. It is now home to over 1.4 million people, the State legislature and the State Capitol. Today, the County and its seven incorporated cities (see sidebar) boast a diverse mix of stunning landscapes, globally competitive companies, unparalleled recreation opportunities, world-class universities, an educated workforce, and some of the earth’s most fertile agricultural land ripe for setting new standards in growing methods and technology.

Sacramento County covers nearly 1,000 square miles from the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the lowlands of the Sacramento River Delta.

The Sacramento County Department of Airports serves the region’s extensive air transportation needs. This enterprise operation (self-funded) provides the region with passenger aviation at Sacramento International Airport (SMF), and general aviation services at Mather Airport (MHR), Executive (SAC), Franklin (F72) and McClellan Airport. Each of the airports supports the others in the system by having a strategic focus, allowing each to concentrate on developing amenities best suited to their respective facilities, services and customers.

Showcasing the region’s ahead-of-the-curve character, in 2013 Clean Edge ranked Sacramento sixth in the nation in its U.S. Clean Energy Tech Leadership Index. That same year, the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) also ranked the area sixth nationally for installed solar capacity. It’s no surprise that the area has one of the highest concentrations of “green” jobs in the nation (third highest percentage in the U.S. – Brookings 2011), and that since 2006 Sacramento County’s Business Environmental Resource Center (BERC) has certified 425 businesses in the area as a “Sustainable Business.”


In March 2013, the Next Economy Capital Region Prosperity Plan was adopted as the shared vision for the region, embracing the reality that economic development activities will have a greater, lasting effort if they are “strategic and synchronized.” This business-led, volunteer-driven endeavor provided a call to action for regional leadership to “focus on a set of common strategies and actions to accelerate job creation and new investment in California’s Capital Region with the goals of supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, diversifying the regional economy and improving the business climate for economic growth.”

Sacramento County developed this Economic Development Implementation Plan to provide a comprehensive, proactive and forward-looking approach to guide the economic development activity of the County and engage, inspire and promote the efforts of other groups and organizations working towards shared goals.

During September and October 2013, stakeholder interviews were held to gain insight and ideas from over 37 regional leaders to develop the key priority areas in which the County should play a leading role. An online survey was also emailed to stakeholder groups as a way to gather additional insight and feedback, with 80.4% agreeing that Sacramento County should take more of a leadership role in government-led economic development, creating “umbrella” opportunities for city and county economic development staff, fostering a team approach.

Based on this feedback, an Implementation Plan was developed that identified six key priorities that
will be addressed during the next three years:

  • Becoming a Regional Leader for Economic Development Efforts
  • Creating a Business-Minded Permitting & Regulatory Environment
  • Spurring Investment Into Sacramento County
  • Fostering an Ecosystem for Innovation & Entrepreneurs
  • Providing a Full-Range of Lifestyle, Education, Housing & Recreation Amenities for a High-Quality Workforce
  • Protecting & Promoting the Region’s Unique, World-Class Agricultural & Farm-to-Fork Resources

In 2013, Sacramento County made a significant leap towards making its permitting and plan review process more efficient and customer-friendly. Through the opening of two Building Assistance Centers—one in Downtown Sacramento and the other on Goethe Road, applicants or businesses with general questions can access various departments, agencies and resources in one central location. Although word is still getting out about these new service centers, the initial feedback has been overwhelmingly positive—in fact, in October 2013, Sacramento County was the first county in California to be recognized as a “Streamlining Superstar” by GO-Biz, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, because of its new Building Assistance Centers.

In addition, by aligning the economic development team with the planning, building & safety, engineering and code enforcement divisions through the restructuring of the Community Development Department, Sacramento County now has built-in cross-functional teams that can review, facilitate and troubleshoot projects from both a regulatory and private sector perspective.


Hollywood’s construction boom in Los Angeles continues to surge, as project prepares to break ground near the 101 Freeway. According to Bisnow, local landlord Hudson Pacific Properties (HPP) plans to begin work next week on a long-awaited expansion of Sunset Bronson Studios (SBS). The $150-million development, designed by architectural firm Gensler, will retool the eastern side of the SBS campus with a new parking garage and approximately 400,000 square feet of office and production space.

HPP’s expansion project is highlighted by Icon, a 14-story office tower slated for the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue. The 315,000-square-foot structure will stand roughly 200 feet tall. An August piece from the Architect’s Newspaper describes the building as featuring “five rectangular, stacked volumes, offset horizontally to create exterior terraces.” Facade elements will alternate between precast panels and a glass curtain wall, breaking down the tower’s broad, imposing scale.

Moving south from Sunset Boulevard, the project will include two new buildings of a lower height profile. The first, a five-story production building, will contain 90,000 square feet of production office space and a ground-level cafe. The second, a seven-story garage, will rise adjacent to the production building and offer parking accommodations for 1,600 vehicles.

The 150-foot KTLA radio antenna, a well-known local landmark, will be moved to its original location on Bronson Avenue to make room for Icon. The plan also gives several nods to the SBS Executive Office Building, a charming colonial edifice which once housed the headquarters of Warner Brothers. The new office tower will feature an offset above its third floor, so as to match the eave line of its historic neighbor. Other tributes to the 1920s structure include decorative free-standing columns, a masonry fence line, and a landscaped setback along Sunset Boulevard.

Hollywood has seen strong demand for new office space in recent years. In fact, Icon is just one of several speculative developments currently proposed or under construction within the neighborhood. Four blocks west, developer Kilroy Realty is in the process of transforming CBS Columbia Square into a mixed-use complex with more than 300,000 square feet of creative office space. Also, the J.H. Snyder Company is scheduled to break ground on a long-delayed 112,000 square foot project later this year.