Winning SEBA Student Proposal Benefits City of Antioch

SEBA Antioch planning in classroom

Thanks to a very creative and insightful group of Saint Mary’s graduate and undergraduate business students, the city of Antioch has a plan of action to inspire economic development and revitalization for an economically challenged commercial corridor.

The city of Antioch—the second largest city in Contra Costa County—and the Antioch Chamber of Commerce joined with Saint Mary’s School of Economics and Business Administration (SEBA) and the College’s Center for the Regional Economy to spearhead a student competition to develop proposals addressing the challenges in Somersville Town Center, an economically depressed retail corridor in the city.

Five student teams were steadfast in their research, data collection, analysis, and concept development for a solid academic year, with the ultimate goal of presenting their proposals to city of Antioch stakeholders and vying for first place in the business case study competition. On May 13, 2020, before an online Zoom-filled room of judges, Antioch business and political leaders, SMC business school faculty and students, and other Antioch community members, the five student teams shared their proposals. Team one proposed public street art and community engagement; team two proposed economic development within community spaces; team three proposed higher education by opening another California State University campus; team four proposed a professional rugby team; and team five proposed a three-step solution involving jobs, retail, and the community. After responding to questions from a panel of six judges, team five emerged as the victor.

SEBA students Maira Espinoza ’20, Ben Khatirine ’20, Victoria De La Rosa ’20, Kylie Ruff ’20, and Bronwen Lane ’20 comprised team five. Their winning plan focused on three specific areas: employment, retail sales and revenue, and community engagement. “Antioch has had difficulties maintaining different types of businesses, especially in the Somersville area,” said Lane. “With much thought and research, and receiving insights from the Antioch Chamber of Commerce, we agreed to focus on long-term solutions because it’s a more realistic approach, considering the need to improve the area,” she added.

Ruff shared the first step in the project. “The first tier of our project is employment, and we want to implement a distribution center in Macy’s,” said Ruff. “The distribution center from online shopping will bring in new jobs and also encourage workers to spend money in Antioch. Online shopping and companies like Amazon have transformed the way we shop. E-commerce sales are also projected to raise over $200 billion in sales over five years,” added Ruff.

Part two of the project involved showcase retail, explained Lane. “With this model, retailers showcase their products while storing the bulk of their merchandise elsewhere, focusing on the customer’s experience,” she said. “By combining online presence with physical storefronts, this can allow for an easier transition from the current use of space into the future of retail. This also minimizes the necessity for physical contact, which we’ve seen challenges with as of late.”

Khatirine shared the final tier, a plan to implement a boys’ and girls’ club in the community. “Investing in our youth is one way to strengthen our economy,” said Khatirine. “I think the boys’ and girls’ club can bring an economic impact because studies show that [the clubs] increase the number of high school graduates,” he added. “An outside study shows that for every $1 spent into a boys’ and girls’ club, there was an approximate $17 benefit of economic value produced in the state. Public dollars are also saved in terms of juvenile arrests, averted teen pregnancies, and reduced underage drinking—and the local economy is also strengthened in terms of regular operations, capital projects, and volunteer labor.”

Marco Aponte-Moreno, associate professor of Global Business at Saint Mary’s, worked very closely with each team and provided oversight of their research, which included competitive and benchmarking analysis, industry trends, a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, revenue and expenditure forecasting, key market and financial factors, and more. “I have been working with an incredible group of students, and they have developed five outstanding proposals,” said Aponte-Moreno. “Their work has the potential of making a real difference in the city of Antioch.”

SEBA Dean Elizabeth Davis expressed her enthusiasm about the competitive presentations and also infused a bit of humor. “It’s so nice to be here tonight and to have the benefit of listening to all these presentations. I think tonight’s presentations were really fun, but I also have to tell you that as a result, I’ve decided I’m moving to Antioch,” said Davis. She also extolled the benefits of partnering with SEBA on business projects and how meaningful it is for students to have this type of experience. “These kinds of projects really are a priority for Saint Mary’s Business School because they really represent the opportunity for our students to do hands-on work. It’s really through experiential learning—the practicums that they do, and the project-based work that really benefits everybody involved. It improves placement for our students, it spells collaborations that yield student success, and also provides positive contributions to the business community.”

Richard Pagano, CEO of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce—a partner and a sponsor of the competition—expressed his appreciation to Saint Mary’s, his team at the chamber, and the city of Antioch for giving so unselfishly of their time, going to the College to interact with the students. “Thank you guys so much for all of your hard work and all of your efforts. The time you spent engaging with students in and out of the classroom is appreciated,” said Pagano.

Professor Berna Aksu, director of the Saint Mary’s Center for the Regional Economy, summed up the business competition event. “You know, our priorities at the School of Economics and Business are developing connections with our business community. So, for those of you in the audience tonight, I throw out the challenge. Send us your problem, and we’ll send you a team,” said Asku.

Team Scholarship Awards

First Place: $3,000

Second Place: $2,000

Third Place: $1,000


  • Diane Burgis, District 3 Supervisor, Contra Costa County
  • Natalie Hannum, Dean of Workforce & Economic Development, Los Medanos College
  • Sean Wright, Mayor, City of Antioch
  • Julie Payne-Neward ’03, Saint Mary’s College Alumna
  • Rick Recny, Director of Asset Management, Time Equities
  • Richard Pagano, CEO, Antioch Chamber of Commerce