Chamber survey: Local business improved last year but has far to go

Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ — The Santa Cruz area economy picked up last year, but a hearty comeback continues to elude many, according to a countywide survey of local businesses.

“Things are better and, still, it’s quite apparent that we really aren’t back,” said Bill Tysseling, executive director of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the survey along with the Santa Cruz County Business Council and the Santa Cruz Downtown Association. “I suspect that tends to be the result of some industries recovering more quickly and being less damaged in the first place. Construction and real estate are having a hard time and we all know it and that’s a drag on the overall economic community.”

The spring survey, which ended Friday, questioned businesses about economic conditions and trends in 2010 as well as about expectations for the next 18 months. It drew responses from 167 businesses, about 133 of whom actually completed the 20-minute online survey. The survey will be the focus of discussion Thursday at a luncheon hosted by the chamber.

Those who responded said wage levels, total payroll compensation and financing challenges continue to reflect economic weaknesses. And, while the outlook was better, local businesses were slow to return to pre-2009 wage levels.

Compared to responses in a similar survey last year, there were several positive upward trends relating to total compensation paid and the impact of financing challenges on the business. Last year, 50 percent of responding businesses in a similar survey reported reduced total wages paid, compared to about 30 percent responding about 2010 this year.

“That does represent a real continuing downward trend in wages paid and of course unemployment increased pretty much throughout 2010,” Tysseling said.

Nearly a third of the reporting business increased compensation in 2010, also an improvement over the 2009 survey results in which only 22 percent reported paying more total wages.

The number of businesses reporting lower gross sales in 2010 was cut in half from a year earlier and those with increasing sales said sales almost doubled last year.

Those reporting “very negative impacts” from changes in customer demand for products and services dropped from 35 percent of all respondents to 12 percent.

The survey drew participants from a variety of industries. More than 10 percent of the responses came from each of the following: agriculture, forest, fishing and mining; construction; retail; real estate; information and communications; design and marketing; special and technical; and health care.

Participants were also asked about marketing and advertising dollars, which uncovered a surprisingly high interest in traditional avenues such as print and
television advertising, as well as expected inroads into social media and Internet exposure.

A panel of local business leaders will be discussing the local economy and the survey at the chamber’s Business Climate Luncheon on Thursday. Panelists include Marq Lipton, vice president of marketing for the Seaside Co., who will talk about tourism; Barbara Scherer, chief financial officer at Plantronics, who will talk about technology; Jess Brown, executive of the Farm Bureau, who will discuss agriculture; and Brian King, Cabrillo College president, who will report on higher education.

Robert Gibbs, a national retail consultant retained by the city of Santa Cruz Redevelopment Agency to provide an analysis of local retail opportunities, will also be on hand to discuss national trends in retail. Gibbs will compare them with his analysis of another informal survey of Santa Cruz area businesses responding to questions relating to local retail opportunities.

In that survey, conducted by the chamber and the Downtown Association, shoppers were asked about preferences for the development of downtown Santa Cruz.

 

AT A GLANCE

Some of the initial findings in a separate survey of shoppers who were asked about preferences for the development of downtown Santa Cruz:

 About 60 percent of the respondents said that more women’s clothing stores
downtown were a priority for them.

 Nearly as many, 57 percent, said men’s clothing stores were a priority.

 Restaurants, electronics, home furnishings, sporting goods and art were also
opportunity areas for development.

 About 57 percent of the respondents said that better value was their priority
for downtown stores with about 42 percent asking for higher quality as their top
priority.

 More than 70 percent of the respondents said that other family members enjoyed
shopping downtown.

 About two-thirds of the respondents were women.

If you go

Business Climate Luncheon
who: Hosted by Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce

when: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Thursday

where: Cocoanut Grove, Santa Cruz

cost: $35 members, $50 nonmembers

info: santacruzchamber.org

SOURCE: Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce

 

This article appeared here.

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