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Locals talk recession at town hall meeting

SCV economy can bounce back with 21-point economic recovery plan

Posted: September 3, 2009 9:54 p.m.
Updated: September 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Jim Hicken, president and CEO of Bank of Santa Clarita, speaks during Wednesday night's Economic Town Hall meeting at Californial Institute of the Arts

Taking stock and looking ahead was the name of the game during a town hall meeting that drew about 200 local business professionals to discuss the recession.

The meeting was held Wednesday night at California Institute of the Arts, featuring panel discussions and a question-and-answer period.

The theme was "Weathering the economic storm together."

Local attorney John Shaffery moderated the event, held in the school's cavernous modular theater.
"We're talking here tonight about the micro-economy," Shaffery said at the outset.

He said there are two ways the local economy can improve: Through people thinking about how they spend their money, and dedicated drives to bring money into Santa Clarita Valley through avenues like business, filming and athletic events.

On the heels of Shaffery's opening remarks, Jim Hicken, president of the Bank of Santa Clarita, talked about

"Where we've been, where we are now."

"We've gone through a massive economy explosion in the last 15 years," he said. In December 2007 the economy peaked, the recession began and "now we have a stagnant community."

In the midst of an economic crisis, he exhorted business owners to not be afraid to reach out for help.

Along those lines, Craig Peters, executive vice president of CB Richard Ellis, Inc., said while the commercial real estate market is in the tank, "when it rains, we just need to work in the rain."

Neal Weichel, a Realtor with RE/MAX of Valencia, talked about the local real estate market, and the painfully low inventory of homes currently on the market.

The middle portion of the meeting focused on subcommittees of the Economic Development Corp.

Jim Backer of JSB Development and Marlee Lauffer of Newhall Land and Farming Co. talked about commercial outreach, while technology was discussed by Chip Meyer of The Chip and Joe Messina of Wildcat Technology.

Investments were covered by Charlie Gill, president of Integrated Property Services Group, Inc., and Jason

Crawford, the city's economic development director discussed Santa Clarita's $5 million, 21-point economic recovery plan and the city's enterprise zone.

Also speaking were Jerry Plummer of the Los Angeles County Office of Small Business, and Kevin Leahy, who discussed the Think Santa Clarita Valley business campaign.

A question-and-answer period capped off the meeting.

The event is slated to be broadcast on SCVTV Channel 20.


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