It takes several years from start of talks to ground breaking City officials say
Trying to recruit news businesses into a small town is a challenge under the best of circumstances.
Even when it's successful, it comes after a long process full of stops and starts and long waits while major chains go through the process of site selection.
From the first time a chain store expresses interest in coming to Taft, it can take up to three years before a construction permit is pulled.
That's in a best case scenario.
Corporations and developers often talk to city officials several times before pulling the trigger on a project, city officials say.
Sometimes a company expresses interest in Taft, then changes its mind.
That's why City manager Craig Jones said he doesn't even like to talk publicly about a business building in Taft until the city issues the permits.
It sometimes gives the impression that the city isn't doing anything.
"It's not that we're not working on this. It's a slow process dealing with the corporations," Jones said.
But it's not discussed publicly until there's a done deal.
"I don't want to disappoint anybody because things can change," Jones said.
As a small community, Taft often ends up at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to getting franchises and chain stores.
But now it may be Taft's turn.
"We're starting to get some interest because they're so saturated in metropolitan areas they are looking at rural areas like Taft."
A lot of recruitment work is done locally, some regionally. The City has its own economic development ad hoc committee, which are public meetings and are open to public comment and works with other entities, including the Kern County Economic Development Corporation.
Planning and Development Services Director Mark Staples is headed to a business convention in Monterey this month to market the city.
The City and Chamber also sends a delegation to a larger conference in the fall each year.
More importantly, the city hired a firm Retail Strategies, a Birmingham Alabama firm that specializes in recruiting new businesses for a community like Taft.
Jones said its essential to have someone like Retail Strategies working on behalf of the city.
He said its hard for the city to make direct contact with the right people, while Retail Strategies has that ability.
It brings the information companies are looking for when they are selecting new sites to locate in.
"They walk and talk their business language," Jones said. "It's hard for us to get our foot in the door to talk to decision makers. They've already talked to multiple clients.”
Even then, its still slow going.
When the city hired Retail Strategies in 2018, it was told it would be a year before they could even begin to hope to see results. Retail Strategies contract is up, and the City Council is going to get an update on the progress being made before voting on another one-year contract.