Shop owner looking at a shelf of merchandize.
Downtown Campbell Business Association Vice President Mike VanSant, owner of olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop The Olive Bar, said local officials should listen to businesses. Photo by Annalise Freimarck.

Campbell’s latest economic development plan is getting mixed reviews from business owners after its first update since 2017.

The three-year plan, unanimously adopted by the Campbell City Council in April, aims to tackle three areas of economic growth: filling vacancies, preserving its trade sector and creating a vibrant downtown hub. While the city is working to fix a nearly $4 million shortfall ahead of next fiscal year, City Manager Brian Loventhal said the plan’s strategies could help balance the budget better in the future.

“The proof (is) going to be in the pudding,” he told San José Spotlight. “I could see us in a couple of years looking back and saying, ‘Thank goodness we did that. We really now have positioned ourselves going forward to have a sustainable economic development plan, one that isn’t cyclical, one that really can be timeless.’”

Campbell native Sammy Cai, owner of RU/SH Fitness, opened his business in mid-April and is glad to be located in the heart of the historic downtown. Photo by Annalise Freimarck.

While only 7% of retail space in Campbell is vacant, office space has a vacancy rate of 30%, which the city largely attributes to employees working from home, according to 2023 data. To address that, Loventhal said Campbell has streamlined the permit process and plans to work with brokerage firms to direct their clients toward a spot in the city. The plan also emphasizes maintaining the city’s industrial area along East and South McGlincy Lane and Dell Avenue, which Loventhal said rakes in the most sales tax for city revenue.

Dan Orloff, president of the Campbell Chamber of Commerce, said he supports the plan because he believes the city is doing the best it can to support new businesses under a constrained budget.

“(It’s) protecting diverse economic streams such as industrial service and retail sectors that make us less dependent on any one climate doing better than the other,” he told San José Spotlight. “It just spreads a risk around. And that’s a wise move.”

But the city’s new economic strategy isn’t fully supported by local businesses, despite including feedback from business owners, the Campbell Chamber of Commerce, real estate agencies and councilmembers.

Downtown Campbell Business Association Vice President Mike VanSant, owner of olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop The Olive Bar for five years, said he hasn’t felt heard by local officials when it comes to business needs. He said the downtown association runs many of Campbell’s events voluntarily, such as the Easter Parade, and hasn’t received much help from the city. He’s all for a new approach to economics if it’s more than lip service.

“They roll out all kinds of these programs, and do they account for much? No,” he told San José Spotlight. “We’re the people that bring businesses in because we’re the people that put on all the events. We make the culture here.”

The plan comes at a time when the city also has to balance adding its goal of more than 3,800 new homes by 2031 in accordance with state mandates, while growing its business footprint.

Sammy Cai, owner of RU/SH Fitness, opened his gym around April 15. As a new business owner and Campbell native, he said he’s seen good foot traffic in the downtown space. He is supportive of the city’s efforts to revitalize its economic growth.

“I’ve been really happy down here so far,” he told San José Spotlight. “Something in the heart of downtown Campbell, I don’t think it gets a lot better than that.”

Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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