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Community Fellows Blog Posts

John Hong: A Busy but Exciting Quarter at the San Jose Office of Economic Development

John reflects on the questions: “In what ways do you have a new perspective on how business skills are used to support non-profit, government, community work?”

Businesses come in all shapes and sizes. From trillion-dollar companies to small mom & pop shops, business is diverse. And with these diverse businesses comes the different effects that the pandemic had on them. For example, while the tech sector came out of the pandemic strong, the hospitality industry has far from recovered. Likewise, many small businesses local to the Bay Area have been struggling to stay open ever since. Have you noticed how early local restaurants have been closing? Small businesses face new challenges arising from the pandemic such as new shopping habits, struggles to find employees, and rising costs. 

At the San Jose Office of Economic Development, I work on distributing Storefront Improvement Grants to local businesses that total up to $25,000. These grants are aimed at helping businesses with much needed renovations, exterior improvements, and to help those interested in starting a new business. We’ve had a very busy few months and have distributed over $500,000 in grants in the current fiscal year so far. I communicate with business owners interested in applying for grants both through email and in person through biz-walks, where we survey and canvas local businesses in different areas. I’ve noticed that I’ve been applying a lot of business skills I learned at Santa Clara that I didn’t think I’d be using so much. I’ve also gained a new perspective that everything we learn in different classes comes together to help form one cohesive understanding and interpretation of a subject or issue. This is something that I’ve found very helpful in my day-to-day work. As I self-reflect, for every problem I tackle, I apply a multitude of different skills and take several different paths to arrive at a complete solution.

A few skills that are helpful in my organization include time management, thoughtful communication, spreadsheets (obviously!) and data analytics, and business ethics. Time management and communication for my role are absolutely essential from everyday to big picture tasks. I also consolidate our data on grantees to see the impact that the program has and which communities are in need of the most help. Most importantly though, it's knowing that the work I do at the OED is directly impacting people for the better. 

LSB Fellows,2022-2023