By Ashly McGlone
SAN RAMON -- The retirement of the city's economic development director late last month marked the end of an era and meant the closure of the department assigned to stimulate business growth.
Marc Fontes, 61, began working for the city in 2004 and was honored July 9 for his nine years of service by the City Council. He spent much of his time overseeing the now-defunct redevelopment agency and recently served on the board of the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce.
Fontes was praised for his help acquiring a new police headquarters and permit center, a $10 million project, and his work on the affordable living Valley Vista Senior Housing project, both of which opened in 2011. He also helped oversee the expansion of the Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center and the Alcosta Senior and Community Center, as well as the winding down of the redevelopment agency when the state dissolved it last year.
I "was in local government for over 30 years, and I can tell you without a doubt that San Ramon was the best place that I worked and the best organization," Fontes told the council.
Councilman Scott Perkins said, "If you look at the legacy around town of what you and the redevelopment agency accomplished, it's stunning."
Rather than replace Fontes, the city has tapped consultant and San Ramon resident Leigh Boyd to continue the city's economic growth efforts. Boyd -- awarded a one-year, $50,000 contract by the city manager effective July 1 -- has worked for the city since 2005, helping mostly with retail recruitment and retention, she said. She anticipates spending between 20 to 30 hours a month on city work in her new role.
"If you look at the quality of the work, or the interests or the goals, those are the same," said Boyd. "We have a 5 percent vacancy rate on the retail, and the same with the office (space), so we don't have a lot of space available, but we are always looking to work with the businesses and promote new businesses."
Boyd said residents can look forward to seeing a re-branded and higher-profile "San Ramon First" campaign in the coming months, an effort aimed at getting residents to shop and buy locally.
As for the long-sought-after creation of a downtown, the city permits necessary for development by property owner Sunset Development have been issued. Sunset Development officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Boyd said, "Obviously any new retail projects would capture our attention, but we are not directly engaged on it at this point because it is still in the development phase."
Ashly McGlone covers San Ramon. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/AshlyReports.