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Local News

Goleta Chamber Sees Business Beginning to Turn Around

Business leaders say efforts amid the economic downturn have positioned them for success

The Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce celebrated the end of one year and the beginning of another at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum on Wednesday evening.

“We survived,” GVCC President Kristen Amyx said, referring to 2009, a tough economic year for small and large businesses alike. “It’s getting better. The rate of increase is a little slower than people had hoped, but we’re definitely getting signs that things are getting better.”

Tourism, lodging and retail are still somewhat down, but other sectors of the city are beginning to see progress. The businesses that positioned themselves last year for the anticipated market uptick this year are the ones seeing the most increase, Amyx said.

She said that among the chamber’s accomplishments of the past year were a successful effort to go virtual, creation of a new business model, and an anticipation of the economic downturn and to get back to basics for its members, which emphasizes networking.

The effort paid off. Despite losing 80 members because of economic hardship, among other factors, the chamber gained 82 new ones. Chamber-conducted surveys also reported a higher level of satisfaction among members relative to other chambers of commerce.

Goals for this year, Amyx said, include an emphasis on small business and startups, and strengthening the relationships with Goleta City Hall.

The annual membership meeting was well-attended by representatives of GVCC member businesses, who mixed and mingled around the maritime displays of the museum. The event — part debriefing on the tough year that was, part giving thanks for the members who assisted in programs and activities during the past year, and part pep rally — also ushered in new board members and a new chairman, Steve Greig, who handles government relations for Venoco Inc. He stepped in as outgoing chairwoman Joanne Funari of Business First Bank stepped down.

“We planned in 2008, we executed in 2009, and I would characterize 2010 as the year we’d be ready for anything that comes our way — good or bad,” Greig said.

Among the topics he anticipates the chamber to focuse on this year include water supply and availability; the Goleta Growth Management Ordinance, which the Goleta City Council repealed earlier this month; a future potential business fee based on the size of the businesses in the city; the ongoing Revenue Neutrality Agreement that has the city forwarding much of the sales and other tax revenues in its boundaries to the county; and the city’s newly-adopted Economic Development Strategy.

“My goal for 2010 is to lead in a way that allows the Goleta Chamber to strengthen the economic conditions of the community we serve, ” he said.

Wednesday evening’s event wouldn’t have been possible without its lead sponsor, MarBorg Industries. MarBorg, which got its start in the Goleta Valley about 60 years ago, was thanked by the chamber for its contributions.

Other sponsors included other local industries, including Noozhawk, Allied Waste, ATK Space Systems, Business First Bank, Cabrillo Business Park, Marmalade Cafe, Media 27 and the Santa Barbara Airport, among others.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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