Silicon Valley Economic Development Alliance (SVEDA) brings together cities and counties around the Bay Area focused on achieving local and regional economic development goals while maximizing resources. Since 2017, SVEDA has also organized an annual event offering expert-led discussions for economic developers, planners, and policy makers. In partnership with International Council of Shopping Centers, Urban Land Institute, and Open Counter, the third annual SVEDA conference last week in Santa Cruz brought yet another outstanding lineup of speakers and topics.

Undeniably, one of the biggest challenges of our time is the housing crisis and the impact of housing on every aspect of economic development, for example, impact of homelessness in downtowns and cost of living for the talent that businesses want to attract. Andrea Reimer, former Councilor with the City of Vancouver presented an opening keynote that shed a spotlight on bold initiatives that that were put in place in Vancouver to tackle the housing crisis and their success in moving the needle.

Next up was a series of engaging panel discussions on the changing nature of retail, place-making, and real estate needs for advanced industrial users. As you will see, Fremont was well represented among the diverse, accomplished panelists who discussed strategies and encouraged the audience to adapt antiquated codes and policies to allow for more experiential retail and support technological advancements in cities.

Here are a few highlights:

The session on Revenue And Sales Taxes In A Changing Retail Landscape provided an insight into the revenue implications of the changing retail landscape.
Key Takeaways:

  • Retail sales tax continues to decline. Some categories performed higher than others such as goods and services which are consumed on a discretionary or emotionally-driven basis using discretionary funds/income, and where experience and a sense of place is a primary component. Examples include fine dining, clothing, luxury hard and soft goods, or electronic, books and music, and even specialty shopping districts.
  • With the rise of platforms and influencers, the importance of “place” is evolving.
  • Economic developers, planners, retailers and developers all need to work together to make projects work with the right amount of retail (or in some cases, none!)

Christina Briggs, Economic Development Director, City of Fremont (moderator)
Denise Ovrom, Principal, HdL Companies
Jeff Kreshek, Senior Vice President, Federal Realty

Photo: Revenue And Sales Taxes In A Changing Retail Landscape 

The Impacts Of Emerging Technologies And Business Models In Retail featured two Fremont businesses along with Fremont’s Planning Manager discussing how cities can adapt to new concepts and support the growth of innovative companies.
Key Takeaways:

  • Emerging trends in retail include the rise of businesses on the cutting edge of new technologies such as automation in the food industry as well as creative approaches to online grocery store with same day delivery model – anything that caters to the “hyper-convenience” of consumers.
  • Cities need to look at outdated zoning and policies and make appropriate adjustments to allow for emerging trends in retail.

David Greensfelder, Principal, Greensfelder Commercial (moderator)
Gunjan Garg, CEO, HeartyyFresh
Shawn Lange, President, L2F, a Middleby Corporation company
Joel Pullen, Planning Manager, City of Fremont

Photo: The Impacts Of Emerging Technologies And Business Models In Retail 

We learned about new strategies during the Placemaking: From Origins To Today To The Future session.
Key Takeaways:

  • Adopting multi-faceted approaches to the planning, design and management of public spaces that capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential is important while creating active spaces.
  • With the intention of creating public spaces that promote a community’s health, happiness, and well-being, place-making should be a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value.

Blaine Merker, Partner, Managing Director US, Gehl (moderator)
Monica Renn, Economic Vitality Manager, Town of Los Gatos
Krista Nightengale, Managing Director, Better Block

Photo: Placemaking: From Origins To Today To The Future


And finally the Artificial Intelligence, Manufacturing Automation, And Commercial Real Estate track focused our attention on industry automation affecting not only how workers do their jobs, but also where workers do their jobs, especially in how it relates to commercial real estate.
Key Takeaways:

  • The need for large, flex industrial spaces as well as access to talent with new and unique skills sets is shifting the centers of commerce. Primary drivers of this economic trend are today’s driving industries, including automotive, ecommerce, and other suppliers.
  • A strong case can be made for the adaptive reuse of old warehouse spaces to accommodate current and future growth. With a little imagination and a good dose of planning and research, existing industrial properties can be redeveloped into spaces for entirely new uses.

John Lang, Economic Development Manager, City of Morgan Hill (moderator)
Rob Shannon, Executive Vice President, CBRE
Will Parker, Principal, Trammell Crow

Photo: Artificial Intelligence, Manufacturing Automation, And CRE


As we work to implement creative solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in our communities, we must ensure we continue to support advanced industries and neighborhoods of character. We look forward to working with colleagues, policy makers, businesses, commercial districts, and community partners to design stronger and fairer economies, to expand housing opportunities for all, create new jobs and develop opportunities for innovative industries.

Kudos to SVEDA for bringing economic development leaders from Silicon Valley together once again. Thank you to the fantastic speakers and panelists. We are already looking forward to next year’s conference!