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
• Air Commercial
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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