It didn’t take long for Brentwood’s new Assistant City Manager, Terrence Grindall, to earn the trust of his colleagues – about a month into his new job, he was handed the agency’s keys as acting city manager, while Gus Vina was on vacation.
The keys weren’t Grindall’s for long, but when he assumes his everyday position, his impact will be felt: he’s gearing up to drive forward the city’s economic development.
“I am very excited to be coming to Brentwood,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities here.”
The 29-year economic development veteran, who previously served as Newark’s assistant city manager and community development director, steps into a long-vacant Brentwood role. His annual salary will be $202,024.
“He has many years and great experience in land-use policy, community development and economic development,” said City Manager Gus Vina during his official city introduction.
Grindall is once again thrust into the center of a city’s economic development, which includes everything from community marketing and retailer attraction, to streamlining development processes and organizing events.
Just a handful of early goals include: promoting Brentwood’s development potential; increasing the city’s per-capita sales tax base through retail recruitment; and attracting high-quality local jobs.
“It’s very important in this community to get quality jobs into the city,” Grindall said.
Grindall’s previous industry stints, which included stops in Manteca and San Jose, were characterized by the arrival of high-profile companies, including Facebook and Bass Pro Shops. But he’s quick to point out that his greatest achievement has been behind-the-scenes work to streamline development.
One facet of that success, he says, is the rudimentary city processes and plans that recognize and speed up economic development opportunities. He attributes Facebook’s expansion into Newark last year, in part, to a refreshed general plan and zoning update.
“Those types of things are going to pay a lot of dividends in the long run,” he said. “It’s not too sexy, because you don’t see something like a Facebook sign going up. But that process led to those down-the-road things. The process was so streamlined that I could tell Facebook their project was approved at a table — I didn’t have to do anything. I could tell them that what they wanted to do was consistent with our regulations, and they could go.”
Grindall is now faced with a new challenge in Brentwood, though he’s quickly embracing it while learning on the go.
Through all his plans to speed up development processes, where possible, and morph into a business-recruiting pest — a quality that helped him persuade Bass Pro Shops to come to Manteca in the early 2000s, during his stint as the city’s manager of economic development and redevelopment — he hopes to showcase Brentwood’s potential.
Currently, the vast landscapes, beautiful homes, quality shopping centers, well-planned and maintained streets and infrastructure are largely a secret to the outside, he said.
“It’s a machine that is running on all cylinders, but people don’t know about it,” he said.
He’s also honed in on the approved development plan for a 431-acre property south of Lone Tree Way, west of Shady Willow Lane, north of Sand Creek and east of Heidorn Ranch Road — expected to one day feature four million square feet of commercial development, generating approximately 8,400 jobs. The area would also include 2,100 housing units and a residential population of 4,500.
Key plan details still need to be decided, including street locations, building height and sewer and water line sizes, he said. He hopes to utilize the nonprofit Urban Land Institute, which will use nationwide experts to analyze the plan and ensure that it’s acceptable.
“If you get a given piece of land, maybe what you want is one big office building,” he said. “Maybe what you want is to carve it up with streets through it and so you create more of a downtown feel. Maybe you have an office building, a hotel, another office building. What does the market say? What will make for the best, most marketable product? Questions like that have to be addressed.”
On the retail and hospitality front, Grindall believes the city needs additional auto dealers, hotels and retail stores people enjoy, such as Target, which could increase the city’s per-capita sales tax.
The city’s 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 operating budgets show that Brentwood’s per-capita sales tax revenue has increased an average of 5.1 percent yearly, from the 2014/2015 fiscal year to 2018/2019’s budget of $8.3 million. But an accompanying comparative city list shows the city ranking 14th out of 21, with per-capita revenue of $143.68.
“I am going to be spending a lot of attention on that because I think it’s important for the revenue base for the city,” he said. “This is not a city that is struggling for revenue, but I still think it’s worth some of my attention to see if I can boost that revenue.”
As Grindall plots the city’s future, he’s also establishing his own, exploring a move to Brentwood from Newark with his wife and six-year-old daughter, after she finishes the school year.
Beyond that, he wouldn’t mind one day carrying the city’s keys, full-time.
“I look forward to studying under Gus Vina to see what it takes to be a great city manager,” he said.