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Celebrating Business Growth in Oakland

Written by Aliza Gallo, City of Oakland

The City of Oakland believes in the work and the approach of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City and we support the annual Inner City 100 Symposium as a great asset to showcase the importance of inner cities like Oakland’s. For over 10 years, we have nominated eligible Oakland businesses to be recognized on the Inner City 100 list in FORTUNE magazine. Over the years, we are proud that 55 Oakland businesses have been part of the prestigious 100 Inner City alumni family. We were further honored to be awarded the ICIC Nominator of the Year award in 2014, given to the partner who refers the most winning businesses to the Inner City 100 list each year.  Like the coach of a team that is recognized thanks to the talents of his or her players, Oakland’s recognition owes directly to the diverse and dynamic set of companies that help to put our City on the map as a thriving center of urban commerce.  Of course, the City’s Economic Development staff does all that we can to keep our companies happy and growing.

Our relationship with ICIC and the Inner City 100 began several years ago through a local partnership with an Oakland-based affiliated organization called Inner City Advisors.  In partnership with the City of Oakland and others, Inner City Advisors works with fast growing and high growth potential companies in and around Oakland, some of which it also nominates directly for the Inner City 100.

Another tie that the City of Oakland’s Economic Development Department has to ICIC’s work is our sector strategy, which focuses outreach and expertise in such high growth areas as food production, craft manufacturing, green and cleantech, information technology, life sciences, trade and logistics, and retail. Working to expand these diversified but fast growing sectors of Oakland’s economy is part of what led to our ability to nominate a wide variety of high growth firms to the Inner City 100.

Each year I ask the City of Oakland’s Economic Development Sector Specialists to nominate the companies in the segments of the Oakland economy that are experiencing the most consistent growth in revenue and employment.  We also track fast growing firms in the local business press, and compile all of our best candidates for evaluation by ICIC for the Inner City 100.  The ICIC staff take things from there, performing extensive due diligence to verify which of our nominees qualify as top performers on a national scale.

For 2014, we initially nominated approximately 40 companies to be considered for recognition in the Top 100.  Last year, for the first time in the program’s history, the Inner City 100 list consisted of 10 fast-growing businesses from 10 industry categories. The 10 industry categories were: Construction; Manufacturing; Professional Services; Food and Beverage; Retail; Media and Communications; Software and Information Technology; Transportation and Logistics; Healthcare and Biotechnology; and Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation. Applicants ranked according to revenue growth against their industry peer, as well as overall performance. Oakland is proud to share that seven companies received awards including:

  • FATHOM – #2 on the list overall, #1 in Manufacturing
  • Revolution Foods – #19 on the list overall, #2 in Food & Beverage
  • Oaklandish – #33 on the list overall, #1 in Retail
  • ArcSine – #48 on the list overall, #5 in Professional Services
  • Premier Organics – #51 on the list overall, #4 in Food & Beverage
  • Blaisdell’s Business Products – #63 on the list overall, #3 in Retail
  • Veronica Foods Company – #94 on the list overall, #8 in Food & Beverage

I was fortunate to attend the 2014 Inner City 100 Symposium & Awards and accept the award on behalf of the City of Oakland as well as cheer on our winning businesses! Not only was the conference enlightening, I realized how important our business community is to Oakland. Whether small or large, all of the diverse firms in our ecosystem contribute to the vitality, health and economic well- being of our community. Businesses and business owners who choose to locate and grow in inner cities like Oakland’s need to be recognized for their commitment because they face specific challenges. As cities, we need to demonstrate our support and the Inner City 100 Symposium & Awards provides one such opportunity on a national scale.

We look forward to participating in the 2015 Inner City 100, and encourage other cities to nominate their most inspiring firms.  When urban entrepreneurs succeed, we all benefit!

Aliza Gallo is the Economic Development Manager in the City of Oakland’s Economic & Workforce Development Department. To learn more about the City of Oakland, visit their main website at www.oaklandnet.com or it’s Business Assistance Center website at http://www.oaklandbac.com/. Aliza can be reached at agallo@oaklandnet.com. 

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