Helping Business Boom
By Matt Larson
Most cities have a chamber of commerce, but the East Bay also has the Council of Industries.
Rules and regulations for operating a business are constantly changing. City ordinances, senate and assembly bills, even residents and city council members can vote on changes that could have a positive or negative impact on any business, directly or indirectly, and on top of running the business in the first place—it’s a lot to keep up with.
To help maintain a thriving, expanding business economy here in the East Bay we’ve got the West Contra Costa County Council of Industries (COI) to provide some extra support. While our economy continues to develop, COI is asking themselves: How can we help businesses stay in West County and grow? And how can we work with the city to make sure that happens?
“I meet with our mayors, city council members and supervisors to see what’s coming up—are there any concerns or issues that cities have, or the county has, in regard to business? Are there any grants or incentives out there to improve businesses so then I can get the word out? Anything we can do to help,” said Executive Director Katrinka Ruk. In addition to your local government agency or chamber of commerce, COI looks at the whole picture to provide additional support on a personal level.
“There are ordinances that apply to your business in the city, or the county, that you may or may not be aware of, and that’s one thing that I keep track of,” Ruk said. “I monitor the City Council’s agendas when they come out and relay that information to our businesses; I keep track of zoning changes to make sure businesses know if they’re able to expand in their areas or not; I work with the planning department just because—a lot of things can happen!”
The Council of Industries functions as a dues-oriented business trade organization. They’ve been around for 50 years, if not decades longer, and it was initially created develop a stronger relationship between port businesses and the maritime industry, which was the bread and butter of the East Bay’s economy back then. COI has since morphed into an organization that is here for all industries. Members include financial institutions like Mechanics Bank, hotels like Courtyard Marriott, financial and geological consulting groups, and more. They’re open to all businesses but are most effective for medium- to large-size companies.
“We’re open for anybody to come and join us,” Ruk said. “We may not be right for some businesses, and if we’re not we highly recommend that you partner with the chamber of commerce and your neighborhood city council.” But they’re all about promoting business and community, striving to create a proactive, symbiotic relationship with government and business owners.
While constantly working with West County mayors to focus on sustaining local business and recruiting more to the area, COI will also be participating in the group that is focusing on Richmond’s air-quality maintenance—one of the first cities in California to get involved with the air pollution mandate outlined by Assembly Bill 617. They’re also actively consulting with the city about how to best rezone around the Richmond Field Station, how to protect Winehaven and develop Point Molate, and how to create even more local business! For more information, or to get involved, please visit councilofindustries.org or call (510) 215-9325.
You may have recently attended their annual Shoreline Cruise last September at the Marina Bay Yacht Harbor, which is a great example of what COI does for the local business community. Guests were able to meet city officials, neighborhood and business representatives, and more, all while enjoying views of the shoreline from the Hornblower yacht. “We slowly circled the Santa Fe Channel and the 32 miles of coastline in Richmond and West County, highlighting major businesses,” Ruk said. “Not all of them are COI-member businesses, but that’s not the point. The point is to promote business and economic development in the region.”