Is there a role that local government can play to support the growth of startup technology entrepreneurship? Brad Feld, who wrote Startup Communities: Build an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, answered that “local government .. should participate as a supporter of the startup community. …shine a bright light on the activity, make it easy for entrepreneurs to start businesses … provide space for free and be a convener of the various members of the startup community.”
That is exactly what the city of Murrieta is working to do.
First, some background: Murrieta is a city of nearly 105,000 people located at the convergence of Interstates 15 and 215 in the center of Southern California -- close to both San Diego and the greater Los Angeles Area/Orange County. The community reminds many observers of the “next Irvine/Orange County.”
Over recent years, Murrieta has grown rapidly as an upscale community. The community is composed of young families and a professional population that wants to work locally. With an attractive Southern California setting, its record as the fifth safest larger city in the United States, pro-business city government, high education levels, the city is poised for the growth of tech businesses.
The Murrieta City Council has designated economic development as the No. 1 priority -- with a focus on the growth of startup and early stage technology companies in life sciences, software, national security and manufacturing. The city of Murrieta gets it that entrepreneurs create the jobs.
Murrieta thinks of itself as Southern California’s “best kept secret.” The city council has recognized that the community needs to encourage the growth of early stage companies. The city recently “adopted” the new book The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton, chairman of Gallup, as its “bible” for economic development.
Clifton tells us that mayors must realize that in every decision they make, they should consider foremost if that decision will create jobs for the community. Cities cannot depend on Washington, D.C. to create jobs. It will occur in cities with the right location, the right entrepreneurial environment, the right leaders, the right quality of life, the right universities and the right innovators/ entrepreneurs. As Murrieta Mayor Rick Gibbs indicates, “Murrieta is precisely that kind of city where startup technology companies are actively encouraged to grow to create jobs.”
With this in mind, the city set to work to help encourage the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. It convened a regional Innovators Group and established the Murrieta Regional Technology Innovation Center, a business accelerator, at its former city hall. The city encouraged the creation of a local angel capital network and hosted a Tech Coast Angels fast pitch at city hall. The city created mentoring programs. Murrieta helped attract TriTech Small Business Development Center.
Murrieta reached out to the nearby University of California, Riverside to facilitate the growth of businesses in the area. The City Council rezoned large areas of the city for “Office Research Park.”
The city is a facilitator for business. The city created a Fast Track program, which was first used to attract the 500acre Loma Linda University Medical Center as the anchor for the planned technology campus.
Murrieta worked to obtain approval to be included in the San Diego Innovation Hub, reflecting that Murrieta is now part of the greater San Diego region. The city leaders helped to create InSoCal CONNECT, spurring innovation in the Murrieta and the University of California, Riverside region. InSoCal CONNECT completed the first Innovation Assets Report which indicated that 80 new startup technology companies were formed each year.
Murrieta has become an active member of tech advocacy groups such as San Diego CONNECT, the San Diego Venture Group and Irvine’s OCTANe.
Murrieta has also created a unique international focus to encourage companies to grow locally through exports. The city has hosted an “export university.” Murrieta attracts EB-5 and foreign direct investments.
Murrieta recognizes the challenges of starting a company and is doing what Brad Feld suggested as local government’s role: creating the environment where the startup community can thrive.