A low unemployment rate and a strong safety net of resources were the message taken away from the SCV Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly luncheon, held Thursday at the Hyatt Regency in Valencia.
Planning Commissioner and former Chamber President Bill Kennedy introduced a panel that included Salt Creek Grille owner Greg Amsler, Melaluca distributor Trish Grinnell, Dena Maloney from College of the Canyons, the Chamber’s legislative advocate Damian Jones, Jonas Peterson of the Economic Development Corporation and the city’s Economic Development Manager Jason Crawford.
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Amsler started the session by sharing one of his goals for 2010 – “to be open in 2011” and saying that this economy forces business people to learn new things. He said that he and his staff did a lot of introspection in the last year, looking at how they did what they did and what might have slipped through the cracks.
”We needed to reconnect with our customer base,” he said, acknowledging the tough economic times that forced some people to cut dining out from their usual expenses. “Maybe they don’t need us now, but we have to be there when they come back.”
He said that using social networking and reinforcing what his company did well in the past was why he was still “open in 2011” and involved with the chamber and other business support groups, such as the EDC and the Small Business Development Center.
Maloney shared that while other community colleges are cutting back their business programs, COC is maintaining and growing its resources.
“With the state budget, state colleges are re-trenching, not pursuing grants and shutting down business centers,” she said, noting the number of programs available to support businesses, such as the SBDC, providing information and training programs; the Center For Applied Technology and the Employee Training Institute.
Crawford introduced Councilmembers Bob Kellar and Laurie Ender, saying they “drive the support of businesses as a priority of the city.
“A lot of businesses are betting on the city,” he continued, citing Disney’s The Studio At The Ranch project and the expansion of Westfield Town Center, which together are expected to bring more than 3,000 jobs to the area.
Crawford said the 7.8 unemployment rate was evidence that things were better here than in the surrounding areas, noting the rate in the Inland Empire of more than 20 percent and the statewide rate of 12 percent. He also said that vacancy rates were trending down for the first time in a long time and that hotel occupancy was up.
Enterprise Zones were at the top of Crawford’s priority list, as he and other speakers emphasized the benefits of the zones and why those in attendance should do everything they can – including contacting their legislators – to save them from the Governor’s proposed budget cuts.