2013: A growing trend in San Luis Obispo County business

Nine local business leaders say the county is making economic gains across a range of important areas — but how strong will the recovery be?

jlynem@thetribunenews.comJanuary 5, 2013 

San Luis Obispo County’s economy will continue to grow in 2013 and beyond, welcome news for a host of industries such as tourism, which is a key economic driver. While the positive trend is reason for optimism, some warn that it may take more time for the economy to return to full strength. 

“While SLO County never experienced the economic lows that most counties experienced over the last few years in California and throughout the West, in such areas as real estate and unemployment, our local economy appears to be improving at the same speed at which it fell — slowly and modestly,” said Mike Manchak, president and CEO of the Economic Vitality Corporation of San Luis Obispo County. He compared the recovery to being “a bit like a driver riding the brake pedal.” 

Yet, opportunities abound here, with businesses — such as MindBody and Rosetta — thriving, and that gives business owners such as Clint Pearce of Madonna Enterprises hope for a greater influx of head-of-household jobs and a bigger economic boost.

“Along with these large companies, many startups are being created and an ecosystem is being created to continue this business creation locally,” he said. “I’m not sure we’ll see quantitative economic growth in 2013 from this startup group, but before long, it will really move the economic needle in the right direction.”

As 2012 drew to a close, The Tribune asked several of the county’s top business and professional leaders to offer their economic predictions for the new year. 

Austin Hope, president of Hope Family Wines

The local economy should continue to steadily improve in 2013.

We’re lucky that the wine industry and tourism are so closely intertwined.

As people spend less on airfare, they drive to get away. We are a close drive from both Southern and Northern California and the Central Valley, and we offer an affordable destination.

The wine industry in particular has an advantage, because we weren’t hit economically on the massive scale that much of the nation was.

As we continue to grow our wine brands, we will continue to utilize local companies that serve the wine industry, in addition to our partners in the food and hospitality world.

Stacie Jacob, executive director, San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau

Tourism in San Luis Obispo County holds strong and will continue to see growth in 2013.

The county continues to build awareness among key drive markets as well as nationally through the collective marketing and public relations outreach efforts by the county and community tourism partners.

International travel will be an area of growth for San Luis Obispo County, especially with visitors looking for an active environment to play and seek out adventure.

Mark Lisa, chief executive officer, Twin Cities Community Hospital 

In my opinion, costs will rise. 

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act-

associated taxes will commence in 2013.

Ten thousand baby boomers turn 65 each day, increasing costs to Medicare.

It is likely that health insurance premiums will grow somewhat, and there will be greater fiscal pressure on both hospitals and physicians and that, in turn, may cause some cost shifting.

It is generally anticipated that a greater share of cost will be shifted from employers back to the employees in the coming months and years. Thus, it behooves us all to be smart consumers, but to also be healthy by taking greater personal responsibility for our health, and live better by not smoking, exercising, eating right and becoming more informed about health and wellness.

Mike Manchak, president and chief executive officer, Economic Vitality Corp. of San Luis Obispo County

While economists continue to indicate that the recession has been long over, many believe them but don’t feel it.

The local, state and national economies are experiencing issues not faced before, and this slow recovery is driven by two primary issues: consumer confidence and uncertainty to businesses.

Consumers remain concerned about the future of the economy, although they are spending more, and businesses are concerned about the uncertain nature of health care costs, access to capital, regulations and taxes. 

Kevin Meyer, president, Specialty Silicone Fabricators

Over the past year, I’ve sensed that San Luis Obispo County has turned the corner and is now on the upswing in terms of employment, housing and general economic activity.

As I talk to my peers at other manufacturers, the mood is more positive, but it’s still a long way away from the heyday five or 10 years ago.

Specialty Silicone Fabricators is an “importer of cash” to the county as we have almost no customers in the area.

That’s a positive for the county, but it also means we’re sensitive to national and global fluctuations in policy and economic climate.  

Clint Pearce, president, Madonna Enterprises 

I think we’ll see a somewhat stronger economy than we saw in 2012.

Although I’m not an expert in agriculture, everything I’m seeing and hearing speaks to a good 2013 for wine, cattle and many other commodities.

The housing market is not only healing but seems to be growing again.

Lending may keep a bit of a damper on growth, but this industry, which has been such an economic drag the last few years, seems poised to help grow the economy in 2013.

The tourism industry is seeing growth in hotel occupancy and room rates. 

The awareness of San Luis Obispo County as a travel destination continues to grow.

Culinary, sporting and cultural events continue to grow on the Central Coast and are a big driver for this growth. 

Charley Senn, commercial real estate broker, Anderson Commercial Real Estate 

We will start to see an increase in construction of commercial office and industrial buildings in 2013 and 2014.

There were very few buildings constructed between 2008 and 2012, and the existing inventory of available facilities is rapidly being absorbed by the expansion of successful local businesses.

It is also my opinion that rental rates for office and industrial facilities will increase in the first half of 2013 and continue to increase as new facilities are constructed.

Barry VanderKelen, executive director, San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation

The economy will continue recovering in the new year, which will help nonprofits raise money and bring some stability to the sector.

This is important because the demand for programs and services will remain high.

Kyle Wiens, chief executive officer, iFixit

I’m optimistic for 2013.

I know that iFixit is just one of a number of local technology businesses that is continuing to expand and create local jobs.

I’m extremely excited about The Hothouse, the new startup space downtown.

Cal Poly’s Center for Entrepreneurship has the potential to drive a lot of tech business growth in town. 

Julie Lynem is a staff writer for The Tribune. She can be reached at 781-7932.

 

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