Business owners, investors and local leaders will gather to network and talk through local retail trends, marketing technologies, and the possibility of a game-changing lab coming to Richmond at the second annual Economic Summit on Tuesday at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium.
“This is an opportunity to connect business owners, for them to learn from each other, and to improve their businesses,” said John Ziesenhenne, chair of the Chamber of Commerce, which presents the event.
According to Chamber of Commerce President Judy Morgan, nearly 250 participants have signed up—about 25 percent more than last year. The summit can accommodate walk-ins, but organizers hope more people will register over the weekend. Ziesenhenne said entrepreneurs in particular could benefit from the event by gaining a better understanding of the goods and services Richmond will need in the future.
That future, Richmond leaders hope, will involve the major addition of a new Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and the conference will feature two sessions on the business needs that could come with it. Richmond is one of six East Bay cities competing to be the site of the new lab, which could bring thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in revenue. Presenters from UC Berkeley and SKS Investments, the firm that’s developing Richmond’s site proposal, will speak about the business demands the lab could bring and how companies should position themselves to take advantage of those opportunities. The University of California Board of Regents won’t make a final decision on the lab until November.
In another UC-centric session, Thomas Mills from Richmond’s Redevelopment Agency will explain how changes in the UC procurement system could make it easier for small businesses in Richmond to sell to UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco.
“If you are a small business, that doesn’t mean you have to be shut out,” Ziensenhenne said. “The UCs want to be inclusive.”
So do conference organizers. Last year the summit was an all-day event with an evening trade show. But the hours made it difficult for small business owners to participate without closing up shop for the whole day. This year the event only runs through lunch.
“We want them to be able to keep their businesses moving along,” Ziensenhenne said.
Organizers also hope the summit attracts entrepreneurs who are new to Richmond.
“We want to show them Richmond is a business-friendly city,” Ziensenhenne said. “There are businesses that have been here for many years, have been successful and enjoy being in Richmond.”