Since its incorporation almost seventy years ago, the city of Brentwood has been a gem in California’s far eastern Contra Costa County region. Brentwood is growing in popularity with residents and visitors and is becoming one of the best places to start a new business or expand an existing one.
“People have found us,” says Brentwood Mayor Robert Taylor, his voice full of pride. Taylor is in his tenth year as mayor, having previously served two years on the council.
He says the city has plenty about which to be excited. It has an ideal location for businesses, tremendous schools, a low crime rate, access to major highways and infrastructure, beautiful natural settings and an outstanding quality of life. Brentwood’s per capita income is $96,000, significantly higher than the American national average.
Brentwood is the fastest-growing of all nineteen cities in Contra Costa County with a population of 61,055 and counting as it has been growing by 3.8 percent annually for the past three years.
For companies of all types, there are many incentives for companies, services, and programs including business networking, financial resources, marketing assistance, business support. Companies coming to Brentwood may also receive workforce placement, zoning, and permit assistance and help in other areas on their path to success.
The skilled and enthusiastic economic development team works with new and existing businesses to help find the best ways to reach their financial goals. “We have a very business-friendly process for development, so we are very nimble and get people through the process,” says Gustavo ‘Gus’ Vina. “That’s something you can ask the development community, and they will tell you they will come to Brentwood and do business anytime. We are quick, flexible and get people through the process without a lot of hassle.” Vina is entering his third year as Brentwood’s City Manager.
As City Manager, Vina is responsible for overseeing the Police Department, Parks and Recreation, Finance and Information Systems Department, Human Resources Department, Public Works Department, Community Development Department, the City Attorney’s Office and the Economic Development Division. “We do strategic planning here, so we have a two-year blueprint on initiatives that have been approved by the council,” he says.
The City is one year into the City of Brentwood Strategic Plan and is focused on council-approved economic development initiatives as well as several other initiatives, as it prepares to enter the next two-year strategic planning process this fall. The current Strategic Plan can be found here.
“We have a two-year budget, and we do the two-year strategic plan, and it aligns with the two-year election cycle, so that way, there is some stability in what the City is going to work on for at least a two-year period,” comments Vina.
The City is eager to bring new business to Brentwood and can prepare a tax incentive package, including financial programs and partnerships with lenders to help companies with capital assistance and low-interest loans to get them moving as soon as possible.
One of the City of Brentwood’s key focuses is the 373-acre Priority Area 1 (PA-1) in the northwest corner of Brentwood, off Highway 4. This greenfield site is a vital piece of land for both future employment and mixed-use development and represents an essential part of the City’s general plan.
“That needs to be a big job center for us,” says Vina. Under a specific plan, Brentwood is establishing a vision for the area and, according to the City, “identifying uses desired and allowed in PA-1 and planning for infrastructure improvements to support future development.” The area features an all-new highway bypass that allows for much easier and more convenient access into the city, simplifying the transportation of goods.
Members of the community are encouraged to attend a variety of community workshops and other meetings and events to provide their input on the future of PA-1. The City plans to uncover the community’s vision and develop a mixture of open spaces and developed land to attain growth while maintaining the quality of life that residents want. Environmental studies will be completed during this process so PA-1 will be shovel-ready for infrastructure and development.
Brentwood is optimistic that Priority Area 1, once completed, will serve as a center for high-end businesses and job creation.
PA-1 has unique features compared to areas in other cities in California. “One thing that this PA offers is, there are not many cities that can turn around and be centralized for the Bay Area as well as Sacramento and getting into the Valley,” says Mayor Taylor. “One of the facts is, we have the land. You can put in a large structure, and we are getting inquiries about what we have to offer. You also need to have accessibility to transportation, and that has pretty much been achieved as the scope broadens.”
Brentwood prides itself on its teamwork with other cities including Oakley, Antioch, and Pittsburg for the betterment of the entire east Contra Costa County area. The City has mapped what it has to offer locally while maintaining an awareness of and promoting business needs and requirements which may be better served by other communities. Other cities, for example, may have greater provisions for industrial-type businesses, but Brentwood has more available housing stock.
“The four cities really need to work together to take advantage of opportunities, as opposed to us hanging up the phone with somebody after saying, ‘No, sorry, we don’t have that kind of space,’ says Vina. “Likewise, the PA-1 may offer something that would benefit ultimately the region, not just Brentwood.” Among the industries he and others would like to see are offices, small technology companies, clean manufacturing and non-retail commercial businesses that would help improve the supply chain.
Through its economic development action plan, Brentwood is identifying areas on which it needs to concentrate and will combine those with specific planning taking place in PA-1. “Some of it is going to be opportunistic, and some of it is going to be targeted based on what this action plan gives us.”
One of Brentwood’s most treasured features is its historical connection to the agriculture industry. Before the housing boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Brentwood was covered with row crops and orchards. Today, over a hundred thousand visitors return to the Brentwood area for the annual U-pick season which features varieties of cherries, peaches, and an assortment of fresh off the vine vegetables. One of the most popular crops to grow in the area is the Brentwood Sweet Corn. The economic development team is very mindful of the active agriculture industry that is in the region and will continue to ensure Brentwood strengthens its agri-business and agri-tourism sectors.
In addition, Brentwood is home to many unique restaurants, tourist attractions, movies in the park, one of the best-known farmers markets in all of the state of California, events on Saturday nights, homecoming parades, concerts and more. Both residents and visitors treasure the historic downtown area, which has seen $60 million investment in improvements.
About fifteen housing developments are currently underway in the city. Brentwood is less expensive than comparable areas, yet its thriving housing market offers the same wonderful quality of life amenities. Much of this, says Mayor Taylor, comes from the city’s focus.
Brentwood provides an additional bonus for residents and businesses alike; all subdivisions and business development that occurred after 1999 had fiber-optic conduit installed. Within the last two years, Brentwood contracted Internet service provider Sonic.net, so all that homeowners and businesses need to do is tap into their services.
“We are really looking towards providing that type of system,” says Kwame Reed, senior analyst at the City Manager’s Office. “As we progress, we know that a lot of companies aren’t just looking to have fast internet. They’re looking have fast connectivity. So we are starting to expand our talks with Sonic.net to see how we can really take advantage of the fiber in the ground to make sure that is what businesses will also need as they choose Brentwood as a future home. That’s something we are working on. A lot of cities don’t have that and are going through the process of finding out how they have to tear up the roads to put in conduit to provide fiber. We are there. We’ve done it. It’s going to be part of any new development and has to be provided throughout the city now.”
Its City Council is extremely stable and is dedicated to improving life for all businesses and residents. “If you look back on our history, there is not of a lot of infighting; in fact, I don’t know of any,” states the mayor. “In other words, we are all here for the same goal, which is the betterment of the city and the constituents that live here. We are very open, very public and very accessible as politicians. Generally, the issues we face are the outgrowing issues. We are a great community.”
Brentwood continues to welcome new businesses and residents and maintains a thirty percent financial reserve, making it even more secure and attractive.
“If you have a business and are wanting to come to a city and looking for your employees to live there as well, political stability is really priceless,” says Vina. “This is my fourth city, and Brentwood has a history of great planning, which is why there is great quality of life. So it’s very meaningful to have that political stability and good thinkers, balance, and we are in great shape financially.”