PASO ROBLES — Buoyed by the success of the SLO HotHouse and others like it across the nation, the City of Paso Robles struck a partnership with the Sandbox to create a business success center on the northern edge of the Downtown.
The success center will provide coworking space, training, seminars, individualized mentoring, pitch contests, and other resources that will lead to business attraction, expansion, incubation, acceleration, and development, according to the staff report. Additionally, it will be a hub for collaboration and community building and unique events.
“It enables our community to start assisting entrepreneurs and others to start businesses and grow their businesses in our community,” said City Manager Tom Frutchey. “Currently, we are primarily a service-oriented community, which means the majority of our jobs are in two circles either agriculture or hospitality. We need to have a much broader base of economic development, we need to offer a wider variety of jobs and career opportunities. The business success center is one part of an overall strategy to ensure we become a more balanced community in terms of our job offerings and provide vocational and career development opportunities for our residents.”
The City Council approved a sublease with the Sandbox to develop the center with a 4-0 vote at its June 18 meeting. Councilmember John Hamon was unable to attend the meeting.
“This is economic opportunity for our town,” said Councilmember Steve Gregory. “We have an incredible intellectual capacity in our city that we are not being able to utilize. I compare this to what is going on in the wine industry in our own town. Our best winemakers are in their 30s and 40s doing creative things that are turning the wine industry on its head. It’s time for some of us to step back and let these guys and gals ride their horses to success in a creative way.”
The Sandbox’s parent company Kaldera Collective LLC will receive a 10-year economic incentive loan of up to $395,000 at 3% percent interest. Kaldera will not have to begin repaying the loan until July 1, 2020.
Up to $99,500 of the loan will be forgivable if Kaldera satisfies certain requirements related to the installation of the tenant improvements.
The City plans to house the center at 1345 Park St., but as of June 18 had not secured a lease. Frutchey said they were close and was confident it would materialize.
“The entire effort is a public-private partnership, with the City pulling the necessary elements together, and the private sector providing the ongoing energy and expertise,” the staff report stated. “The coworking space provides local, professional office space and grows support and connections between businesses — which has been shown to build needed local networks and spawn new business ventures.”
During public comment, not everyone was in favor of the concept, most taking issue with the size of the loan and the proposed Downtown location. Some said it should be located near the Paso Robles Airport.
“This is an incentive yes, but we are not going to be responsible for the rent, the Sandbox is,” Gregory said. “They have done a creative and very successful business for many years. This is business attraction, head of household jobs and a very great step forward to economic development in our town. It may not be the way we are used to seeing it, but it’s here.”
The business success center will be the home of “Startup Paso,” an affiliate with the nationwide “StartupsEverywhere” network that connects local entrepreneurs and investors. The center will be the City’s hub for startups and investors to connect; increasing the likelihood of entrepreneurs being able to launch and keep their businesses in Paso, rather than moving out of the area to seek funding and networks.
The success center will house the Small Business Development Center’s North County business development services and will be given dedicated office and training space. The SBDC is a Federally funded program that provides intensive mentoring and consulting to local startups and existing businesses to go to the next level.
The business success center will be organized locally by Kyle Ashby, founder of the Sandbox Santa Barbara.
Ashby is a recognized community builder and has launched tech products and businesses. He has extensive connections to the tech industries in Santa Barbara County and Silicon Valley and said he will actively outreach to locate their remote teams to Paso as well as market Paso’s ability to accommodate expansion as their businesses grow.
Additionally, Ashby is a mentor for the University of Santa Barbara’s Technology Management Program, partners with Hancock College’s entrepreneur center, and collaborates with Cal Poly’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and HotHouse. He will facilitate the expansion of those programs and services to Paso Robles.
The Paso Robles business success center will also collaborate with the SLO HotHouse.
The Sandbox Santa Barbara offers three membership levels — $247, $129 and $59, all per month — as well as day passes and virtual membership for remote workers.
“We are a coworking office desk space for single entrepreneurs as well as larger companies with remote employees,” Ashby said. “That is what our daytime job is and at night we bring the community together through events, through meetings, through film screenings, through business events, through nonprofit benefits and all kinds of different activities.”
For more information, on Sandbox Santa Barbara visit online www.thesandboxsb.com. For more information on the Paso Robles business success center, call the city at 805-227-PASO or visit online www.prcity.com.
The City Council’s next regular meeting is 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16.