Chamber stimulates business climate

The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and its Economic Development Commission (EDC), in partnership with the city of Santa Maria and the Santa Maria Public Airport District, work every day on providing opportunities for job creation, recruiting new companies and helping our existing businesses expand and grow.

It is important that local residents and businesses understand the role the chamber has in economic development. Instead of announcing their successes or taking credit, the chamber often works behind the scenes to help companies overcome hurdles and ensure a smooth process.

As a recent example, two of Santa Maria’s largest employers called on the EDC to assist with permits with outside agencies. Any delay in issuing these permits could have had a catastrophic impact on their business and mission. The EDC helped by communicating with the appropriate agencies, making sure there was no negative impact on their operation.

Additionally, the EDC assisted small businesses, working with them from the time of initial interest, through the business license process, connecting them with the appropriate departments to discuss the operation and requirements, and providing assistance for the permit process. The EDC has the experience, resources and connections to help.

The EDC has recently worked with dozens of existing employers and new companies to provide employment and expansion opportunities. They have also encouraged local industry to do more business with local companies and look to the local area for products and services.

This is the tip of the iceberg of the chamber’s involvement. The Manufacturers Association, another arm of the chamber, is an extremely popular group of industry and business leaders that provides an important forum. The group also coordinates business visits and tours. It is organized and facilitated by the EDC.

The chamber is also a partner with the Airport District. The EDC recently collected over 250 support letters from businesses, representatives and the general public to support the district’s efforts to receive a grant that would be used to help gain Denver as an additional route from Santa Maria. The chamber is also promoting Allegiant Air’s new flights to Hawaii, scheduled to begin in November.

Twice a year, the EDC conducts an extensive economic survey. These surveys are essential to provide the most up-to-date data available to determine how local business sectors are faring. The information helps to apply programs and resources where needed, and to provide added reinforcement in those areas doing well.

While the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce focuses its economic development program on the Santa Maria area, it has a significant regional impact. The EDC was the only association in the tri-counties area to host a Vandenberg Air Force Base outreach event for small businesses. This event connected businesses with base representatives and contractors, explaining how to do business with Vandenberg and the government. As a result, the event drew business owners and representatives from all three counties and as far away as San Diego and Bakersfield.

On a regional level, the chamber also administers the Santa Barbara County Energy Watch Partnership, sponsored by PG&E and Southern California Gas. This program has assisted over 190 North County businesses to reduce energy costs. It extends from Solvang to Buellton, to Guadalupe to Santa Maria and Orcutt. Businesses and organizations save an average of $1,600 per year in energy costs, money that can go directly back into the operation of the business.

When it comes to sustained economic development programs that assist businesses of all shapes and sizes, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and its Economic Development Commission work day in and day out to improve the economy and create employment opportunities for the Santa Maria Valley.

 8/9/12  By Trent Benedetti/Improving North County

Trent Benedetti is a board member of the Committee to Improve North County and a long-time local business owner.