Alex Mueller: Rebuilding San Jose
Starting in my role as a Business Development Intern with the San Jose Office of Economic Development (OED), I was immediately welcomed onto the team and became fully engaged with a number of tasks. One of the first things I did as part of my job was participate in biweekly “Business Walks” During these Business Walks, a team of around 4 employees from the Office of Economic Development walks around a targeted business district and speaks with businesses one-on-one. The goal of these Business Walks is to gauge how businesses in our local community are recovering following to Covid pandemic. Immediately, I became aware of how much smaller, family-owned businesses have fared significantly worse in their economic recovery than have much larger, multinational corporations. Being able to provide these struggling businesses with support resources, such as a pamphlet highlighting our Office’s phone extension and other resources including local and national grants and loans, was an extremely rewarding experience. These Business Walks also helped broaden my perspective on the business landscape in San Jose. I was surprised by how many of these businesses were owned by Spanish-speaking or Vietnamese-speaking individuals. Fortunately, I was often accompanied by a team member who was fluent in Spanish so communication was still effective, but I was impressed by just how diverse the business makeup is in San Jose.
My primary responsibility in my role as a Business Development intern has been to facilitate Storefront Assistance Grants to local businesses in the San Jose community. The Office of Economic Development has a grant program by which eligible businesses can apply for a $10,000 grant for exterior improvements, such as outdoor seating or installing a sign, or a $15,000 grant to assist with upgrades after moving into a vacant building. Helping to facilitate these grants has given me the opportunity to directly communicate with upwards of 20 businesses during my time with the OED. This has been an incredibly rewarding experience as I have seen firsthand just how beneficial these grants are for the businesses. The thanks I receive for helping facilitate the grant is an incredible feeling, and I am proud to be working for a team who works to directly benefit smaller businesses and support the development of our city.