Sacramento-based small-business owner Mac Clemmens excitedly shared his recent good fortune with his Facebook friends: The state of California approved a tax credit for his business that will allow him to add 18 employees over the next five years.
“We entered into a contract with the state,” Clemmens told me, “and if we meet certain milestones, meaning we hire a certain number of people that are paid a certain amount of money, then we earn the tax credit. It’s over the course of five years. We really don’t get anything until we perform.”
Clemmens said he already has hired his first employee under the deal, bringing his staff to 13. That means 17 more to go, he said, at a minimum annual salary of $50,000 this year and $60,000 in the next four years.
Clemmens’ company, Digital Deployment, develops customized websites for businesses, nonprofits and government entities. In October 2015, the firm released a new product called Streamline that can guide employees of special districts nationwide as they create their own website.
The Streamline software provides them with boilerplate language that must be included on every site. It offers stock photos and art to add visual appeal, and it provides templates for webpages. Clients pay $50 a month to Digital Deployment to use the software, and Clemmens and team have been providing newcomers with one-on-one assistance to ensure smooth transitions.
“Streamline is positioning itself to be the No. 1 tool for special districts around the country,” Clemmens said. “There are about 38,000 special districts around the country, and less than half of them have websites, and we’re here to help them solve their transparency gap.”
In early March, comedian John Oliver lampooned special districts on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” as “ghost governments” that take in $100 billion in taxes but operate with little public accountability or oversight.
Oliver did note that California is one of the few states requiring greater transparency. In October, Clemmens said, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 272 requiring that local governments such as special districts, counties and cities publish a catalog of the computer systems they use that are considered “enterprise systems.” Agencies must create a catalog by July 1, and Clemmens said the requirement has created something of a panic among agencies with limited staffing who have no technology experience.
“Many … districts are confused about what is actually required, but compliance is necessary even if you don’t have a website or any computer systems at all,” said Sloane Dell’Orto, Digital Deployment’s chief operating officer. “We decided to build a tool to help them and give it away for free.”
At getstreamline.com, government officials will find a tab titled “SB 272 System Catalog.” The program walks them through “yes” or “no” questions to help them determine whether a system has to be included, Dell’Orto said, and then it shows them how to publish the required catalog.
The tool is free, Clemmens said, but it also allows people to test out Streamline technology before buying the premium product. He hopes to sign up 400 new Streamline users by the end of the year, he said, and new staff members will help with that.
Clemmens has begun testing marketing approaches for the Streamline product, and once he’s found the strategies that deliver the best results, he said, he’ll focus on trying to accelerate adoption of his turnkey Streamline website builder.
Clemmens said he believes that the growth of this product and Digital Deployment’s customized web services will lead to the hires he predicted when he applied with the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. If it does, he said, Digital Deployment will qualify for a $250,000 tax credit in five years.
His company was one of several Sacramento-area businesses that secured the California Competes Tax Credits if they deliver future hires. In total, the state approved $70 million in tax credits. Other area recipients included pharmaceutical manufacturer AMPAC Fine Chemicals, with employees in Rancho Cordova and El Dorado Hills; Martin Brothers Construction, with an office in Sacramento; and Rancho Cordova-based North State Electrical Contractors.