Thursday, March 3, 2016

Things are changing around here! Angela Cole, who has been with the Chico Chamber for nearly 10 years after graduating from Chico State, is departing to explore exciting career opportunities. Please join me in thanking her for her years of dedicated service to our members and the business community. Meanwhile, our team is growing! We have announced an opening for a brand new position: Associate Vice President. Please contact me if you are interested in joining our dynamic and hard-working team as we leverage the voice of business to move Chico forward.

In March, Team Chico's monthly Community Safety Meeting for businesses and community members will be hosted by the Chico Mall in the Food Court. Join us on March 10th from 9-10am for a discussion with the Chico PD on, the new Chico PD app, and safety measures your business can take. Complimentary goodies will be provided by Panera Bread.

In January, Team Chico visited with nearly every business in and around the Rio Lindo area and the Chico Airport Business Park. In February, we checked in with businesses along the 20th Street corridor and Forest Avenue area. At the end of this month, Team Chico will be circling back to check in with businesses in the Mangrove and Vallombrosa areas. We visit businesses each month with updates on infrastructure projects, safety issues, and just to see how things are going. We make a concerted effort - the Chamber, City, DCBA, AFWD, and 3CORE - to solve the problems brought to our attention. Keep an eye out for us and let us know how your business is doing!

Last month, the City presented an update on their financial status and outlook. If you missed the presentation, take a few minutes and click through it here. Rest assured, we're following the civic fiscal discussion closely so that we can keep you informed and know how to best advocate for your needs.

Have a great month and let's hope for a few more weeks, at least, of rain.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Wow - what a relief to see the front page of the Chico ER read "Heading in the Right Direction" following last week's Business Summit & State of the City Address. To say that the last 5+ years have been a financial rollercoaster for our business community and city government would be an understatement.  And, here we are, at the start of 2016, celebrating how far we've come. Still, the Mayor tempered expectations in his Address last week by noting that reserves are drastically too low and staffing and technology are still underserved. We've got a long road ahead of us, but at least we're moving Chico forward.

The Chico Economic Snapshot produced by Mark Francis with Golden Valley Bank also offered good news with steady increases in our economic indicators. Mark noted that we've added 9,001 jobs to the region since our low point just a few years ago which - he noted with humor - equals the populations of both Gridley and Biggs combined. Yes, good news indeed. We'll soon publish a video of the Summit & State of the City Address thanks to BCAC-TV so stay tuned if you missed the event.

Lastly, I want to thank our incredibly deserving award recipients for their contributions to our community. It is through the recognition of these selfless acts of goodwill toward our community that we raise the bar ever higher. Take a peek at our Annual Dinner photos online and give our recipients a like and a share!

I hope to see you at a Community Safety Meeting this year - perhaps on the 11th of this month at Transfer Flow at 5:30pm. These are critical community conversations about public safety and your business presence keeps us all moving in the right direction. The time to get involved is now!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Happy New Year! I can't remember another year in which people were more excited to start fresh. There's energy in the air and we're eager to capture it. In 2015, we took a hard look at the Chamber and came to realize that after 100 years in existence we're still here to leverage the voice of business for community good. With our Community Vision in hand, 2016 holds exciting prospects for continued improvement in the business and living climate in Chico that will benefit our members and our economy tremendously.
At the top of our Vision we recognize the value of a safe community. To reach this goal, our first Community Safety Meeting of the year is next Thursday, January 14th, at noon at the PG&E offices located at 460 Rio Lindo. Hosted in partnership with Team Chico, this is an opportunity to meet the Chief of Police, hear about recent developments in the department, and find out how you and your business can be part of the community-oriented policing model sweeping through our city. Meetings like this one will be held monthly throughout 2016 and I hope you'll take a moment to sign up on Next Door and to download the newly released Chico PD app. It's time to get connected.

I'm also thrilled to welcome Toni Scott with Morrison & Company as Chair of our Board of Directors. As the first millennial to fill this critical leadership position at the Chamber, Toni brings a sharp eye to our list of priorities and will keep us heading in the right direction as we expand to meet the needs of all generations in Chico. And, to start the year off right, we're gearing up for our 78th Annual Dinner and Business & Community Awards Ceremony on January 21st in the Big Room at Sierra Nevada. I hope to celebrate our collective business and community accomplishments with you that evening. See you there!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Tim O'Reilly, popular for coining the phrase 'open source,' says, "Every industry and every organization will have to transform itself in the next few years." I agree with this - but I think we need to kick it up a notch: everything will be transformed in the next few years whether we like it or not, and we can either react to the changes as they come or take the wheel and hit the gas.

I think about the effects of rapid change on our very own city. Every community in California is grappling with the aftermath of AB 109 and Prop 47 and Chico is no different. In my opinion, as I help to lead an organization focused on our members' #1 priority of a safer community, the solution is going to be largely home-grown and starts with adapting to the community-oriented policing model rolling out in Chico now. In many ways, our hands are already on the wheel.

We can and should look to other communities for best practices - as we have done with much success in replicating the campus-community safety policies in San Luis Obispo this year - but we shouldn't underestimate the unique and immediately impactful work happening in Chico right now that simply couldn't be duplicated in denser areas of the state. In this case, geography and the enduring pride that forms the backbone of our community are on our side and are making a difference both behind the scenes and right in front of our very eyes, like the partnership between Stairways and our police department's Target Team.

So, while I think our vision of a safer community is going to require heavier lifting than less complex community goals of the past, I do think it's possible to achieve it if we all participate, in some way, in the role designed specifically for citizens in community-oriented policing. My request of you, as you plan out 2016 for your business, is to consider attending our monthly safety meetings to shake hands with neighboring businesses and our police department. Oftentimes, familiarity is the first step in building the connections that will make our community stronger and safer in the long run. The first safety meeting hosted by Team Chico in 2016 will be held on January 14th from noon - 1pm at the PG&E offices on Rio Lindo. And if you haven't tried yet, check it out.
Lastly, as we kick off the giving season, please consider donating time, goods, or funds to a local provider or service that benefits the community and our citizens year-round. Lending a hand rather than giving a hand-out does wonders this time of year and could save lives.

Enjoy the season, your families, and the wintery weather, and hold on to your hats because we're "Moving Chico Forward" in 2016!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Business Spotlight on The Hignell Companies
Presented to Chico City Council on November 3, 2015

Good evening. I’m Rick Anderson of YP, and First Vice Chairman of the Chico Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Tonight, we are pleased to spotlight The Hignell Companies, a nearly 70 year old property management, maintenance and construction company serving northern California since 1948. Joining us tonight is Phil Larios, President & CEO of The Hignell Companies who will be happy to answer your questions following this presentation. Also with us is Katie Simmons and Angela Cole from the Chamber who coordinated this presentation and will deliver our economic impact analysis created by Chabin Concepts.

The Hignell Companies is a family-owned company that has offered property development services and property management in Chico for nearly 70 years. Back in 1948, Fred Hignell, Jr. along with his partner at the time, Floyd Strange, were responsible for the construction of over 1,000 homes in 25 subdivisions, in addition to apartment and commercial projects. Doug Hignell joined his father in 1970, and expanded the vision for the company to include an emphasis in real estate syndication and property management services and a professional management team.

The company has experienced multiple name changes over time from Hignell & Strange to Hignell & Hignell to Hignell, Inc. dba The Hignell Companies. They saw the community change significantly from the 1940’s to the 1970’s, and knew it needed different things. While they did not have a focus on the college community, they saw how the expansion of greater access to education affected the area and their business as well as the community as a whole.

The Hignell Companies does so much more than just property management. Over the last three decades, the company has built numerous apartment complexes, a professional office complex of 37,026 square feet, a small specialty shopping center, developed and marketed a 64 unit duplex subdivision, a 59-lot planned unit development, and have built and are managing The Courtyard at Little Chico Creek, a 41-unit assisted living facility for the elderly. Above all of this, they also offer the management of home services and apartments, and are a for-hire professional services organization providing a plethora of home services to our community including Heating & Air Conditioning, Electrical, Painting, Plumbing, Construction/Remodels, Flooring and Cleaning. This is done under the umbrella of “Experts In Your Home.” They do all of this while creating a caring community that transforms lives.

The Hignell Companies started a non-profit organization called Creating Caring Communities as a goal to build community and also The Hignell Foundation, which consists of a Community Impact Fund and an Employee Care Fund.

The Hignell Companies is helping to shape the future of Chico by working in partnership with the city through relationships. Phil says they focus on the future with their sustainable growth plan, providing good jobs in a stable community-based company.

With the growing need for new developments in our community, the ability to get a project up and off the ground within three months is sorely missed. Today’s timeline is more like 3 years from concept to permit. Along with speed of development, costs have dramatically increased and Phil notes their biggest challenge is the entitlement process. Projects that cost $9,000 per unit not so long ago now cost $22,000 per unit. From planning to building to sale, the ability to move a project in a timely fashion is imperative and is an area of constant focus for the company. Until we can get these challenges under control, the company’s ability to make a difference is impacted.

With that, I am going to turn the presentation over to Katie Simmons to review the economic impact slide. Following Katie’s presentation, Phil is here to answer any questions you might have.
Last week, our Board of Directors met for their annual planning retreat.  To round out the discussion, we included our Ambassador Executive committee and the Committed Leaders of our Young Professional Organization, as well as our staff.  What emerged? A stronger commitment from our leaders to advance our Community Vision in 2016 and an understanding that traditional Chamber activities like networking are still necessary but can be aligned with our advocacy and economic development activities to create higher value and longer lasting relationships.  One member said, "the relationships I build through trying to make a difference in this community are stronger and more valuable for me as a business person in Chico."  That's exactly what we're after: impactful connectivity.  

The Chamber has long existed to bring people together - but the reasons behind this are changing.  People have limited time, they follow each other on Twitter, they advertise in ways our founders wouldn't have dreamed possible, and younger professionals are looking to join causes not clubs.  A Chamber, as a catalyst for both change and connectivity in the modern world, needs to combine the two.  What our Board of Directors ratified last week is the fact that we exist to "leverage the voice of business for community good."  The voice of business is not one lone voice but the culmination of hundreds, including yours.  And why do we do this?  Because thriving businesses lead to a healthy community - your community, our community.  

I am confident that everything you expect from your membership will triple in value for you next year, either because you've decided to get involved or because the impact we're making together is more visible.  Another member paused mid-conversation last week and said thoughtfully, "you know, my business needs and personal needs are now inseparable." And I think that as we move toward a more blended lifestyle (rather than the fictitious "balanced" lifestyle I was raised to believe existed) we will hear this more and more.  You not only need a premiere place to do business, but you need an affordable, safe, healthy community in which to live.  That's the beauty of Chico.  We really can have it all.  And our Community Vision positions us to achieve all of this...together.  Thank you for your continued support of our work.
Here is the team leading the Chico Chamber forward!  2016 Board of Directors, Ambassador Executive committee and YPO Committed Leaders.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Business Spotlight on North Valley Ag Services
Presented to Chico City Council on October 6, 2015

Good evening. I’m Toni Scott with Morrison & Company, and Chair Elect of the Board of Directors for the Chico Chamber of Commerce.

Tonight, we are pleased to spotlight North Valley Ag Services, a nearly 60-year old business, cooperatively owned by local farmers who are both members and patrons.

Joining us tonight is Taylor Denney, Sales Manager for North Valley Ag Services, who will be happy to answer your questions following this presentation. Also with us is Vicki Doll from Chabin Concepts who will deliver our economic impact analysis, and Katie Simmons with the Chico Chamber who coordinated the presentation. North Valley Ag Services was founded in 1957 as Chico Bean Growers by 15 bean farmers, who were looking to work together to process and market their dried, colored beans. As a cooperative, the business model these farmers sought is unique from traditional business structures that most may be familiar with, but not uncommon in the agriculture industry. Cooperatives are owned by growers and serve their grower-members, and in the case of Chico Bean Growers, allowed the founding farmers to collaboratively pool resources to better their position in the marketplace. In 1979, a peak year for the company, Chico Bean Growers processed, stored, and marketed 22 million pounds of beans.

Yet, over time, the needs of the Chico Bean Grower- members changed, particularly as farmers in the area shifted from growing beans, to walnuts, almonds, and other permanent crops. Today, just 2 million pounds are delivered by local farmers to Chico Bean Growers, a number that represents 10% of the peak production once experienced locally.

Like any business responsive to its customers and its owners – Chico Bean Growers recognized the need to change with its growers. As President Mark Pierce succinctly summarizes, “The fundamentalism of farming is change.”

As such, about 25 years ago, Chico Bean Growers evolved to North Valley Ag Services, transitioning to a farm supply company that serves farmers from Woodland to Redding. Based here in the Chico, on Bell Road, the main focus of the co-op now is to store and distribute soil amendments and crop protection materials to area growers, which help keep soils fertile, healthy, and producing crops that help make California the number one agriculture state in the nation, significantly impacting our economic health.

North Valley Ag Services handles over 300 railcars of soil amendments per year and stores materials for major suppliers. They follow the strictest safety protocols, and are continually focused on educating their employees and their farmer customers on the proper use and handling of these materials. Farmers, like any business owner, are keenly aware of their bottom line, and recognize that spending more than they need to on any inputs, could negatively impact profits. North Valley Ag Services works with its member-owners to ensure that farmers are taking the steps to keep their orchards and fields healthy, and businesses profitable.

In addition, among other services like bean cleaning, and crop protection services, the company provides soil and tissue sampling services – important particularly in a drought year to ensure healthy trees, soil, and quality crops.

The dynamic nature of the business has been one catalyst that has led their longevity in the Chico business community. In 2001, the organization suffered a loss, and saw $3.5 million in sales. In 2015, North Valley Ag Services is poised to hit $55 million in sales, with a growth expectation of 6-7% per year. This allows the Chico business to continue to retain and expand its employment, and continue to meaningfully contribute to the number on industry in the county. Butte County’s agriculture industry is valued at a gross crop revenue of $810 million. One those almonds have chocolate on them, or our rice is made into tasty rice chips, that value can double to quadruple, based on UC Davis estimates.

Despite this growth and success, however, there are challenges that face North Valley Ag Services and its grower members. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Census of Agriculture, over the last 30 years, the average age of U.S. farmers has grown by nearly eight years, from 50.5 years to 58.3 years. Unfortunately, the data also shows that there aren’t enough aspiring farmers coming behind this aging generation, with the potential for a huge loss of family-owned farms. There is a tremendous need for succession planning in the agriculture industry, with other issues such as the Estate Tax, having the potential to harm the transfer of family farms to the next generation. And with 98% of all farms in the United States family-owned, this is a significant battle to overcome to preserve these vital businesses.

As they look to the future as a growing business in this city, North Valley Ag Services is particularly attune to the need for a strong focus on public safety. President Mark Pierce counts public safety as one of the most important factors impacting their business. With their own railyard and sensitive materials on site, North Valley Ag Services has a strong relationship with local public safety agencies, including the Chico Fire Department, and notes the need for public safety in keeping their business healthy.

With that, I am going to turn the presentation over to Vicki Doll with Chabin Concepts to review the economic impact slide. Following Vicki’s presentation, Taylor is here to answer any questions you might have.