The Man Behind Richmond's Renaissance

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
The Man Behind Richmond's Renaissance
Crime is down, business is up, and the city is avoiding major budget cuts thanks to Bill Lindsay, perhaps the Bay Area's best city manager.

By John Geluardi
East Bay Express

Early each morning on Richmond's waterfront, just a few hundred feet from where thousands of men and women once feverishly assembled Navy ships, military jeeps, and half-track tanks during World War II, a new type of assembly line busily produces fresh, gourmet desserts.

Galaxy Desserts has been touted as one of the fastest growing businesses in the Bay Area. Its two hundred production workers steadily handcraft delectable crèmes, tarts, cheesecakes, mousse cakes, and the company's most celebrated item — the three-ounce French croissant, which has so much morning goodness in its fluffy folds that Oprah Winfrey has featured it five times on her favorite things list. The Oprah exposure brought such an onslaught of new orders (the company now makes upwards of 75,000 croissants a day) that Galaxy needed a larger kitchen. So the company moved from its San Rafael facility in 2005 to Richmond, where it found an ideal geographical location, competitive leasing rates, and enterprise zone tax incentives.

"I don't think any business looks forward to navigating city departments, but the City of Richmond has been more than functional; if I have a question, I know who to call to get it answered right away," said Galaxy CEO Paul Levitan. "We're entrepreneurs so we keep thinking about growing, and right now that would involve growing in Richmond."

"Duran, Wolken, and Mitchell have done an incredible job; they're about getting things done," said Eddie Orton, owner of Orton Development, which refurbished the historic Ford Assembly Plant into a prime waterfront office and restaurant space. The saw-toothed building also boasts the Craneway Pavilion, a 45,000-square-foot event space with sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay. "But the lynchpin is Lindsay. He's the lynchpin for Richmond's success, there's no question about it."

...some of the most exciting businesses to come to town are green. According to the city, there are 65 certified green businesses in Richmond. Among them is SunPower, which leases space in the remodeled Ford building. Even Chevron, the city's largest greenhouse gas emitter, has gotten into the green mix with its Engineering and Technology Division, which employes one hundred renewable-energy researchers, making it the fourth largest green employer in the city. Councilman Jeff Ritterman, a heart surgeon who was elected to the council in 2008, has been one of the city's most enthusiastic promoters of Richmond's new green-friendliness. "The real challenge for us is bringing more of these companies that can provide jobs in a meaningful way," he noted.

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