California Launches Online Directory of Business Incentives

Government entities can upload information on new portal designed to spur economic development

Back Web Only May 9, 2018 By Zack Quaintance

Businesses in California now have a new centralized directory with which to find information about relevant state and local incentives.

Dubbed the California Business Incentives Gateway, or CBIG, this directory is essentially an online portal. The way it works is simple: State, local and county governments simply log on and upload information about the incentives available in their communities, and then businesses refer to it whenever they need that information.

“It includes anything that state, county or local governments do to help California businesses to get started, or that they do to keep businesses here in California,” says Steve Juarez, deputy treasurer for California.

These incentives, Juarez says, generally come in the form of tax breaks and permit waivers, although they are not limited to just those categories.

CBIG, which first launched in February, is free to use for both businesses and the governmental agencies posting incentives on it. Users don’t have to create an account. They simply go to the site, type in the criteria of their searches — what type of business they are, whether they’re new or established, which region they want info about incentives for — and the results are narrowed down to what’s relative to them.

“We’re essentially a conduit,” Juarez says, “a means for businesses to connect with those folks who provide the incentives.”

The state, he says, doesn’t have any official usage numbers yet, but officials are monitoring the portal’s web traffic, with an eye toward encouraging growth. In the Capital Region, incentives have so far been uploaded by Sacramento, West Sacramento, Elk Grove, Lodi, Placerville and Stockton.

To date, the awareness and outreach campaign for the portal has been an individualistic one, with the Treasurer’s Office reaching out to individual local governments and economic development actors to let them know about the site.

They started that process about a year ago, and waited until they had a wide range of participants before officially launching the portal. Juarez says a key strategy was to then encourage the onboarded local governments to reach out to their communities.

“With their help, we’re doing outreach, but it is painstaking,” Juarez says. “It’s going to take a while, and I use the word painstaking because it is. You almost have to go from business to business.”

Gurbax Sahota, president and CEO for the Sacramento-based California Association for Local Economic Development, praises the state’s creation of CBIG, noting that prior to it, there was no centralized place for businesses to learn about local incentives.

Sahota also notes that not all governments see incentives as a vital tool for economic development, but for the ones that do, this is very useful. She also says the state’s reach and connections help get the word out better than if the same directory had been built by a private company or a smaller entity.

Cleese Relihan, economic development specialist with Burlingame, which is just south of San Francisco, says that his city has uploaded information to CBIG about a program that gives businesses free sprinkler nozzles designed to be more efficient than standard nozzles when it comes to water use, which in turn lowers the participating business’ utility bills by 30 percent.

Relihan says that he has often pointed perspective businesses to the portal to show them all of the local incentives in one place. He also uses it himself as a reference point when he needs information about the programs.

While Juarez says that traffic so far has been “small but rising,” the Treasurer’s Office is now developing upgrades to CBIG, working on a better interface as well as an expanded number of incentives that also includes programs offered by academia and special districts.