Rancho Cordova, Calif., has teamed up with Google to get local businesses online and help stimulate economic development.

The city is now a part of Google’s new initiative “Get Your Business Online,” a program where entrepreneurs can learn the basics of how to create a successful online experience. By signing up, small businesses receive a website, custom domain name, Web hosting and access to educational resources. The program is free for the first year, but participants will be charged $5 to $7 monthly afterward.

Rancho Cordova learned about the initiative during the 2013 U.S. Conference of Mayors. Less than two months later, Google sent the city collateral and marketing materials, created a public service announcement and provided a toolkit to help spread the word about the opportunity.

“Anything that we can do to help our small business community grow will be important,” said Rancho Cordova Mayor Linda Budge. “Economic development is our No. 1 priority.”

“The point is to make it quick and easy,” added Ashley Downton, Rancho Cordova’s project manager for the Google initiative. “They have built customizable templates that businesses can use to launch a website.”

Google started its program two years ago in Texas and it has since spread to communities nationwide.

In addition to the materials provided by Google, Rancho Cordova has used its website, an e-newsletter, social media and a local billboard to encourage business owners to increase their online presence. The city also created a survey on its website for business owners to complete once they sign up for Google’s program.

Addressing a Problem

Online representation is a problem for small businesses in the United States. According to a June 2011 survey by Google, only 42 percent of small businesses nationwide have a website. California is worse than the national average, with close to 62 percent of its small businesses lacking an online presence.

Rancho Cordova hopes the Google initiative will bolster the city’s continuing efforts to improve the local economy.

“Google’s statistics show that over the next three years, a business that has an effective online presence can expect to grow 40 percent faster,” Budge said. “That means that the business’ income has increased, and it’s hiring people. If it grows, then the amount of goods and services it buys from others grows. And everyone in town benefits. The business wins. We win. What’s not to like about that?”

The initiative also has a gamification element to it. During next year’s U.S. Conference of Mayors, an independent panel of judges will select a winner from a small, medium and large city that participated in this program based on the city’s reach, impact, creativity, commitment and replicability.

Award-winning mayors and their cities will receive a customized plaque, recognition of city leadership, publication in the U.S. Mayor newspaper and a technology prize package valued at $50,000.

Rancho Cordova has plans to continue engaging its local business owners through an annual business walk and networking event at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“We saw that there was a need to support small businesses by getting online, and this program was a fit,” said Downton. “It’s very little investment on the city’s part with very big reward to our small business community.”

Jessica Renee Napier  |  Contributing Writer

Jessica Renee Napier is a California-based writer who began her journalism career in public broadcasting. She teaches yoga, enjoys traveling and likes to stay up on all things tech.