Friday, August 10, 2012

2012 Summer Review & Fall Preview

After a whirlwind couple of months, it's time to pause and take stock.  I'll share our latest and greatest news, and then I'd like to hear from you.....

Have you taken our recent survey?

The City of Chico and the Chamber want to know if you find the City permitting process straightforward, timely, and friendly.  We also want to know which regulations you find the most burdensome and if your internet access is adequate.  Why?  Because we're working closely with the City and other agencies to improve the business climate on local and state levels.  Comment now.

And stay tuned because in September we'll launch a comprehensive membership survey asking for your feedback on our programs, events, publications, and activities -- all with the intention of better serving our members and the business community.  We're listening....

In the Fall:

We're planning a Membership Orientation on October 11th for new, existing, and prospective members who want to jump-start their membership.  This is the perfect opportunity to ask, "What can I expect from membership?" and "How can I get more involved?"  Come meet the dynamic folks who make up our Staff, Board of Directors, Ambassador program, and Young Professionals Organization for a Q&A on getting the most out of your membership

We're also busily preparing for election season with a forum for City Council candidates.  Keep an eye out for a "Save the Date" notice within the next two weeks.  And, if you haven't read our Q&A with Doug LaMalfa and Jim Reed, candidates for the 1st Congressional District seat, pick up a copy of our latest Business Voice Quarterly.

Here's an excerpt --

We asked:
"Our business community identified burdensome regulations as one of the top four issues negatively impacting their growth and ability to hire.  How do you plan to address this issue to help create jobs in our region?"

Jim Reed Responded:
"In general I believe small businesses are over regulated and big businesses are under regulated. This is a direct result of the big business influence in Washington. As a small businessman myself, I see much of my employee costs are related to compliance work rather than production.  One of my priorities is simplifying the Internal Revenue Code and doing so will greatly reduce time small businesses spend on tax reporting."

Doug LaMalfa Responded:
"From the bills I carry to the constituent services my office provides I always work to repeal and reduce regulations and help people who have been harmed by regulators.  I believe that as your representative I should help get government out of the way of the private sector and those that produce.  I have authored bills to protect local businesses from ADA lawsuits, reformed overly burdensome timber harvest permits, fought unreasonable meal and rest period restrictions and CARB rules.  Government at the State and Federal level have grown out of control over the last two decades and their regulators and enforcers create burdens on our local economy that we cannot afford.  I will continue my fight against these regulations on every level."

What else have we been up to?

Well, we moved! We are now operating from the Old Municipal Building (441 Main Street, Suite 150) across from City Plaza in downtown Chico.  We're planning an Open House event for Thursday, September 20th, from 5:30pm - 7:30pm, in our new location and the public is invited.  In the meantime, stop by our Visitor Center and be sure to recommend our services to family and friends who roll into town.  Our friendly staff can answer almost any question asked.

We're also participating in Annie B's Community Drive for the very first time!  Spearheaded by North Valley Community Foundation, Annie B's encourages charitable giving to local non-profits during the months of August and September.  We're raising scholarship funds through the Chico Chamber Community Corporation to support high school and college students in business-related endeavors.  Pledge today.

Take a look at our calendar of events for more ideas and activities.  Our schedule is packed with networking events, ribbon cuttings, open houses, committee and Ambassador meetings, and Young Professional events.

Looking ahead to 2013:

Next year seems like a long way off - especially while we're baking in this summer heat - but it's just around the corner and we have big plans.  In January, we'll host our 2nd Annual Business Summit & State of the City Address.  If you attended our 2012 Summit, you know we're looking for lively discussion to help set our advocacy agenda for the year.  We'll also host our 75th (yes, 75th) Annual Dinner & Awards Ceremony at Sierra Nevada Brewery on January 17th, Power Lunches in early 2013, and an Educational Conference in April. It's going to be another year full of opportunity for our members.

And now I'd like to hear from YOU!

~ Katie Simmons
President & CEO

Shop Chamber members.  Discounts here!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

All Eyes Are On...Chico Natural Foods Co-op!

We love sharing the stories of our local businesses with the Chico City Council. Last night, our June Business Spotlight featured Chico Natural Foods Co-op and General Manager Liza Tedesco.

More than a local business, Chico Natural Foods Co-op is actually owned by many of its customers...3,000 of them, in fact. With a Board of 7, the Co-op is expertly run by a dedicated staff who not only serve the community, but build it.

We invite you to read their story:

 "Chico Natural Foods Co-op was founded in 1973 when 15 local families formed a buying club in order to bring the community a new way of choosing food that was not over-processed, sugary, or pesticide-ridden. The buying club grew into a storefront that was first located at 15th Street and Park Avenue, then 1st and Orange, then across the street from its current location, and finally – in 1988– at 8th and Main Street in downtown Chico where it lives today.

Chico Natural Foods Co-op derives its identity, in part, from its downtown location, providing customers with an authentic, unique shopping experience, and serving a niche need for a specialty grocery store in south Chico. CNFC is committed to remaining in the downtown region as long as the location continues to make good business sense.

Chico Natural Foods Co-op began as a non-profit but officially became a Cooperative in 2004, when the Co-op sold its first Member-Owner Equity Shares. Today, the Co-op has nearly 3,000 active owners as well as a visionary Board of Directors and is thriving. Liza describes this as a “very exciting time for the organization,” and attributes the growth and health of the business to the dedication of the staff, owners, and Board members.

The Co-op has been described as a community hub and as a good place to connect with people of similar and diverse interests. The business is driven by commerce but also by community needs, and is designed for the individuals who use it. CNFC has also added sustainability as a priority and engages local artists and craftspeople in projects and programs whenever possible. Both the Produce and Grocery departments regularly reach out to local farmers to assist in business development and product marketing.

The business is dynamic and responsive and focuses on a triple bottom line in all decisions: social equity, the local economy, and the environment. Liza is proud to report that the Co-Op has seen a 15% increase in sales between January and May of this year, compared to the same time period last year. With continued growth and vitality projected, CNFC will further focus on education and other programs to better serve the community.

Chico Natural Foods Co-op is committed to maintaining strong partnerships with the City and other local organizations. In Liza’s words, the Co-op is a “living entity” that prides itself on staying relevant to the community it serves."

Many thanks to Chico Natural Foods Co-op for their participation in our Business Spotlight program. If you are interested in being our next "spotlight" please contact me.

Thank you for supporting your local business community!

~ Katie

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Spotlight is on...Deer Creek Broadcasting!

At the Chico City Council Meeting on May 1, 2012, the Chico Chamber of Commerce highlighted Deer Creek Broadcasting in our Business Spotlight presentation. The purpose of our Spotlight program is to demonstrate the significant impact various businesses in Chico have on our local economy. With us during the presentation was Dino Corbin, Market Manager for Deer Creek Broadcasting.

I'm pleased to share our presentation:

"This story actually begins in 1935, when the Chico Chamber of Commerce asked Harry Smithson and Sidney Lewis to put KHSL –AM on the air. The first letters of these gentlemen’s first and last names formed the call letters KHSL. In 1936, KHSL was purchased by Hugh and Mickey McClung of the Golden Empire Broadcasting Company. In 1953, the McClungs founded KHSL-TV, the first commercial television station in the Northstate. Mickey McClung was noteworthy as one of the first female broadcast pioneers in this industry. The McClung family and their Golden Empire Broadcasting owned and operated these stations until 1994, when the radio and TV stations were sold to different parties. At that time, KHSL-AM & FM joined KPAY and the MIX under Craig McCoy’s ownership.

In 2001, Clear Channel Broadcasting purchased the radio stations, then selling these stations in 2004 to the current ownership group, Deer Creek Broadcasting. They currently operate six different radio stations, News-talk 1290 KPAY, Adult Contemporary MIX 95.1, KHSL Country, the #1 Spanish language radio station north of Sacramento KHHZ, Sports-talk 1340 KEWE and 101.7 FM ESPN Radio.

This is the only electronic media company in Chico with local ownership. With a staff of 28, these six radio stations provide compelling information, live local news, entertainment, local weather, local high school and college sports coverage and live remote services. KPAY 1290 was the primary live radio news source during the tragic Paradise fires of 2008. Several former employees have gone on to successful positions in major radio markets.

Deer Creek Broadcasting Market Manager and Partner, William Dino Corbin, graduated from California State University Chico in 1975. He was recently recognized by Chico State with the 2012 Distinguished Alumni Service Award. Dino Corbin’s illustrious background includes a 40-year career in radio and television stations and newspapers, publication of books and articles, and appearances on national radio and television programs. He served for three years as the president of the California Broadcasters Association.

All of this is overshadowed by Mr. Corbin’s involvement with the 33 civic and community organizations listed on his resume. Dino is currently involved with eight of these organizations, and his role with each is significant. Corbin is president of the Chico Chapter of the Chico State Alumni Association, he serves as a member of Butte Pioneers Economic Planning Committee, he is the current chairman of the Chico Concours d’Elegance, and he is president of the Stansbury Home Preservation Association. Mr. Corbin has made it clear through his personal example and through his management, that the most important charge for Deer Creek Broadcasting is to serve their communities.

Through numerous Public Service Announcements Deer Creek Broadcasting provides over $200,000. worth of air-time to their communities. This company supports directly and indirectly 58 jobs, providing personal income of $1.8million. Local and state taxes total $379,000. This company supports 130 people, 15 in grade school, 8 in high school and 51 households. The total annual economic impact of Deer Creek Broadcasting is $10.5million."

We thank Deer Creek Broadcasting for their participation in our Business Spotlight program. To learn more about what they do, please visit

Please join us at the first Chico City Council meeting of each month to hear a new Business Spotlight presentation.

We know you mean business...and we do, too!

~ Katie

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chico Electric shines at the April 3rd City Council Meeting

At the first Chico City Council Meeting of every month, the Chamber delivers a Business Spotlight presentation featuring the history, outlook, and economic impact of a local business. Past presentations have featured TransferFlow,, Work Training Center, The Salvation Army, and Mom's Restaurant & Madison Bear Garden.

Council member feedback and questions are much appreciated as we demonstrate the value of our local businesses, organizations, and industries. These presentations also open the door for in depth discussions on regulatory challenges, infrastructure issues, and other policies and trends impacting our local economy.

At the April 3rd Council Meeting, we proudly featured Chico Electric as our Business Spotlight, inviting Norm Nielsen, President, to answer questions and address issues. Chico Electric has an important family history here in Chico that we illuminated, honoring the legacy and community footprint of the business over the years.

Here is our presentation:

"Chico Electric was founded in 1960 by Cecil Nielsen and his partner Larry Grage. The partnership lasted 3 years and then Cecil became the sole owner of the business. Chico Electric was originally located at 9th and Esplanade where Cecil built the company’s facility before moving the business to its current location on Eaton Road in 1989.

Cecil was originally from a farming family in Nebraska before moving to Los Molinos and then to Chico to attend Chico State. He met his wife while in school and worked for Wells Electric before starting his own business.

Norm Nielsen, who now owns Chico Electric, grew up in the business, spending his summers working with his father, Cecil. Norm attended Butte College before earning his degree from San Diego State. It was while Norm was away at college that he realized how much he loved Chico. He says now that it was natural for him to return home after graduation to, eventually, join his father in business. First Norm worked as an apprentice before moving up through the ranks. He founded his own business which he then merged with Chico Electric when his father retired more than 25 years ago at the age of 60. Norm calls his father, who is still very supportive of the company and of his son, a "great role model."

Norm considers himself entrepreneurial and wants to continue to expand the business. He says Chico Electric has been growing at a steady pace for the past 20 years. At one point, Chico Electric had a booming public works construction department which Norm decided to shelve when, among other things, the state regulations made it too challenging for the operation to remain competitive. Norm remains active in addressing the issues he sees with the Department of Industrial Relations.

Chico Electric now has two major segments and a primary market focused on the North State. The first segment of the business is Quick service, which requires staff and a fleet of trucks to manage small construction and service projects for both homes and businesses; the second segment is their Ag business, which focuses on solar installations, industrial motor control and other systems for growers and processors, such as rice dryers and irrigation systems.

Though he struggles with state regulations, Norm commends the City of Chico for improvements he's seen to the permitting process. He appreciates the City's efforts overall and feels that Chico is the right place for his business and his family, just as his father did over 50 years ago. "People are great here," he says, and compliments the quality of life that he feels is unique to Chico.

Norm and his wife raised two children in Chico, both of whom are successful young adults. Over the years, Norm's charitable focus has been on youth programs, actively sponsoring scouting programs, the Boys & Girls Club, and the activities of Noon Rotary Club. In the past, Norm was also a big supporter to CEPCO and remains invested in economic development efforts including workforce development. Norm partners with Butte College for workforce training, manages his own in-house training program, and is a member of the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) for additional training opportunities.

Though Chico Electric downsized due to the diminished commercial construction market, Norm plans gradual re-growth over the next several years. The company continues to invest in marketing efforts and in their web site which is currently undergoing improvements."

To contact Norm or to learn more about Chico Electric, please visit their web site:

Please stay tuned for news on upcoming Business Spotlights, and make plans to join us in supporting and highlighting a member of our business community at the first Council meeting of every month.

~ Katie Simmons
President & CEO

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chico Chamber Board Announces Katie Simmons as President and CEO

The Chico Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors announced this morning the appointment of Katie Simmons as the Chamber’s new President and CEO. Simmons has been serving as the Chamber’s Interim Director since December, 2011 when she took on the position after the resignation of former Chamber CEO Jolene Francis.

“I am honored that the Board of Directors has selected me to serve as the Chico Chamber’s new President and CEO,” said Simmons. “I look forward to continuing the important work the Chamber has done in serving and representing the needs of the business community, and to maintaining a strong voice in addressing local and statewide issues impacting our economic vitality.”

“Selecting the perfect fit for the Chamber CEO position was a critical decision for our Board,” said Roger Hart, the Chamber’s 2012 Board Chair. “Our interview and selection process was extremely thorough. From the very beginning, we wanted to be sure that whoever we selected for the position understood the new culture and vision of the organization.

While the recruitment process unveiled a number of qualified candidates, ultimately Katie’s non-profit management experience combined with her vision for and leadership of the Chamber over the last several months made her the perfect selection. We are confident she will bring her enthusiasm and expertise to the table as we continue to move the organization forward.”

Simmons brings more than a decade of non-profit management experience to the position, most recently as Executive Director of Chico Velo and, prior to that, as Executive Director of the Paradise Ridge Chamber of Commerce. From 2001 to 2008 Simmons served in management positions at the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, headquartered in Berkeley, California, ultimately as their Director of Operations. Her experience working to define, develop and implement clear and creative strategic goals made her a prime candidate for the Chamber CEO position.

Simmons holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego. She will assume the role of President and CEO immediately. For questions or to schedule an interview, contact the Chamber at 530.891.5556

The Chico Chamber of Commerce is one of the largest, broad-based business advocacy organizations in Northern California. Its mission is to serve as the Voice of Business.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." ~ Will Rogers

I'm so incredibly encouraged by the outpouring of support we've received from the business community, local agencies, fellow service organizations, and the public to TAKE ACTION on the 4 issues identified at the Chamber's 2012 Business Summit that I have to share our progress.

As you know, attendees at the Summit, held on January 31st, spoke out on the issues affecting business in 2012. Here are the top 4 issues identified by over 130 people:

1. Burdensome regulations
2. Financing options for business growth
3. Employment challenges: qualified workforce
4. Transparency in the permitting process

I'm thrilled to report that we've made progress on ALL FOUR issues!

We're pursuing meetings with the City to discuss transparency in permitting and to gain insight into the regulatory issues that are under local control. All of our inquiries have been met with receptivity and, as we move forward with our meetings, we will find ways to partner with the City to problem-solve around these issues. We will cast a wider net once we've bench-marked our plans to re-engage the business community and will be calling on YOU to participate in this ongoing dialogue.

To address the need for delivering more content and education around financing options and availability for small business growth, we've reached out to experts in the field to speak at our upcoming Spring Business Symposium, slated for April 26th in the Big Room at Sierra Nevada. If you attended our Fall Business Symposium, you know to expect expert advice and guidance on these issues -- and financing, a hot topic, will get the royal treatment. Believe me, we’ve heard you and we're going to deliver.

Alliance for Workforce Development, a strong partner, has expressed interest in working with us to deliver a workshop on solving problems around employment challenges. Once we confirm the workshop date and time, targeted for May, we'll be asking you to tell us: What are your employment needs? What are the barriers you face? And what does "qualified" mean to you? We'll give your answers directly to the team of experts leading this workshop and you will walk away with ideas, solutions, resources, tools, and contacts to help you move forward with this challenge in 2012.

Access to broadband and the internet didn't make it to the very top of the list but, having landed at #5, we still take it seriously. Look for progress on these issues, too, as meetings are in place to determine resources available to us now.

I'm greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm we've been met with at every turn. The City, service organizations, and community members are taking our Summit results seriously.

As we draft a formal strategic plan to address these issues, detailing the steps and partnerships involved, as well as the areas in which we will need YOUR input, I promise to keep you posted.

I'm energized by the progress we've made in these few short weeks to show measurable progress on YOUR concerns. I'm also pleased that so many organizations and agencies are working together, as business advocates, for the health and vitality of our local economy.

After all, we’re all in this together.

~ Katie

Katie Simmons
Interim Managing Director

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Road Ahead

As I sort through the sticky notes and poster boards from yesterday's 2012 Business Summit, I am overcome with gratitude for the business leaders, community members, City staff, and elected officials who took the time to join us for an afternoon of big-picture thinking.

We went into the Summit, graciously sponsored by Alliance for Workforce Development, with several unanswered questions. We wondered if business leaders would find value in small group discussions. We wondered if we'd be successful in developing a list of finite goals. And we wondered if the energy in the room be positive.

From the feedback we've received, we can answer these questions with a resounding "yes!"

Here are the issues our 150 attendees identified as top priorities to tackle in 2012:

1. Qualified workforce
2. Regulation challenges
3. Financial assistance for business growth
4. Permit transparency

After sorting through the solutions our attendees diligently jotted down, we'll formulate strategies to address each one of these issues during the next 11 months. We're hoping to make incremental improvements this year through partnership with the City and other service organizations. We'll report back on our progress regularly, and we'll keep the business community engaged in every step of the process.

After all, even though we reached the "Summit," we've only taken the first step!

Here's an overview of our 2012 Business Climate Survey results:

Of the responses we received, most came from individuals who own or operate a business within the city limits of Chico. Most have been in business for 15 or more years and have 1-5 employees. A wide spectrum of industries is represented in these responses.

Regulations were reported as the #1 State issue inhibiting business growth, followed by Costs. A significant number of businesses feel that their needs are not being adequately represented on a state level – which is certainly good feedback.

Turning to the local level: All City regulations, policies, and practices were reported as having a neutral affect on businesses – except for Permitting which falls in the “Negative Affect” column.

Local infrastructure insufficiencies identified were: Roads, Air Commercial, and Wireless/Broadband which all fell in the “Needs Improvement” category. All other infrastructure areas identified were labeled “Sufficient.”

Challenges to growth include:
1. The economy (identified by nearly 80% of respondents)
2. Capital constraints and State regulations and practices (noted by 40% of respondents)
3. City regulations and practices (recognized by 24% of respondents)

Looking ahead, 50% of respondents indicated their business will grow or stay the same in 2012. Only 3 respondents indicated a predicted decline.

Growth opportunities in 2012 are ranked as follows:
1. Increasing sales
2. Entering new markets
3. Hiring employees
4. And introducing new products

Responses on the “Power of One” program indicate a positive reception – with 57% of respondents indicating they will or will consider creating one job in 2012.

We also asked a number of questions that required thoughtful, written responses, many of which we’ll have the opportunity to follow-up on after this event. Most comments were locally-focused: with suggestions on how to capitalize on tourism and agritourism, how to create better communication between the City and businesses, how to create partnerships that work, and how to keep business local.

The survey, in a nutshell, indicates problem areas as follows:
• State regulations
• City permitting
• Roads
• Air Commercial
• Wireless/Broadband

Given the survey results and the amazing outpouring of input we received at yesterday's Summit, we're encouraged by the work ahead.

Please feel free to contact me at to give us your feedback, to ask questions, and/or to get involved in the journey we've just begun.

Together, we are going to make positive changes this year -- there's no doubt in my mind.

~ Katie Simmons, Interim Managing Director