Marcus Clarke has gotten his fill of living outside the Bay Area and is ready to make his return to San Mateo city government next month.
Clarke will end a two-year stint in Detroit to take the job as San Mateo’s economic development manager beginning in June. He had previously served as the city’s business liaison and economic development specialist from 2007-11.
The 39-year-old Santa Rosa native said his time in the Midwest was almost like living in another country, but that his job as business development manager for the Motor City still has much in common with his new post.
“Even though the city of San Mateo doesn’t have the gravity of problems a city like Detroit has,” he said, “there’s still many things we’re trying to do together. Both Detroit and the city of San Mateo want strong city government, they want their workforce to be happy, they want their residents to be happy, they want their home values to be strong. We share the same values of city government.”
Among the chief differences between the two is the unemployment rate in Detroit, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists at 9.9 percent. That made unemployment his main focus, and his plan is projected to create more than 7,000 jobs and create $2.5 billion in local business over the next 10 years.
As he leaves behind a city crippled by the outsourcing of the auto industry, he will again find himself in the heart of the Silicon Valley tech industry. Clarke said one of his goals is to make sure the techies who came here in their mid-20s want to stay here as they reach their 30s and start families.
“We want to give them the kind of community that they want to live in, in San Mateo,” he said. “Buy a house and raise their family there in our schools. I think there’s more we can do to attract and retain a workforce in the city of San Mateo.”
Among the first steps he has in mind is creating a better nightlife scene downtown. He said he has long felt that there’s not much to do downtown other than eating out, and he said he wants to give adults a reason to spend more time there.
Just don’t expect him to come in and start giving orders.
“I’m a collaborative person,” he said. “So I’m interested to see where my partners are, which are the Downtown San Mateo Association and the San Mateo Area Chamber of Commerce. I’d like to see where they are with their programming and see how I can help them accomplish their efforts quicker.”
Clarke’s last day of work in Detroit is May 31, after which he will take four or five days to drive across the country to the Bay Area.