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VIA a ‘living’ organization

Business: The Valley Industry Association began as a group of businesses making safety improvements

Posted: October 27, 2010 8:25 p.m.
Updated: October 28, 2010 4:55 a.m.

VIA’s Connecting to Success program prepares high school juniors to enter the work force. Held at the conference center at Grace Baptist Church in Saugus, 800 high school students attended last fall’s event. VIA conducts two to three events yearly for local students. It expects to train 2,000 students this year.

The Valley Industry Association first came together in Feb. 9, 1981, in response to industrial and fire emergencies in the Valencia Industrial Center.

Twenty-nine years later, the organization’s mission has changed — it has grown to serve education and advocacy needs of local businesses.

VIA announced last week that Tim Burkhart is its 2011 chairman of the board.

Burkhart is the general manager at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

“The whole board is hopeful,” Burkhart said. “It looks like the economy is turning around a little, putting VIA on a stronger footing.”

Kathy Norris, the CEO and president of VIA, responded to The Signal’s inquiry regarding VIA’s role and the benefits it provides to member businesses.

Norris added that the organization is preparing a new member survey to identify the top needs or concerns the businesses have so that the organization can address those issues in the coming year.

“It’s a living, breathing organization,” Norris said. “We have to evolve. we can’t stay in place.”

The Signal spoke with Norris about the past and future goals of the Valencia Industry Association.

How long have you been with VIA?
I’m proud to say that as of last May, I’ve been with the organization for 15 years.

What was VIA’s purpose when it formed?
VIA’s original focus was transportation-based. The Valencia Industry Center was growing rapidly but only had one route in and out of the area. Several emergencies — including two large fires — had occurred, and emergency vehicles were unable to enter or leave the area due to traffic congestion.

VIA organized a group of 20 companies with the intent to improve transportation in and out of the park, not only to alleviate congestion, but as a safety and security measure.

Has its mission or direction changed?

VIA’s mission has not changed dramatically, but we have certainly grown and adapted as needs change. VIA is the conduit to business and education connections. We are dedicated to business success for our members, but the ways we work toward that goal change based on member needs, business trends and the economy. VIA is a true business-to-business organization, working hard to satisfy the needs of manufacturing, industrial and service companies in the SCV and beyond.

What types of business does VIA represent?

VIA’s membership is very diverse. We have a heavy focus on manufacturing and industrial companies, along with the service industries that serve them. You will find manufacturing, (biomedical), technology, entertainment and media, utilities and service companies of all kinds.

How many members does VIA have?

VIA currently has approximately 300 members.

What benefits do members of VIA receive?

VIA’s key business-to-business focus is to help our member companies locate the supplies and services they need locally, as opposed to going out of the area to contract for them. Local suppliers fuel our local economy.

One of the best values of VIA membership is that the organization serves as a large, collective voice that attracts attention at the local, state and federal levels.

A collective regional voice can really make an impact on issues impacting local industry and businesses.

VIA is dedicated to the development of our existing and emerging workforce.

Employers can take advantage of local training classes, designed to satisfy a need by local business owners.

Membership offers businesses an avenue to build business regionally, through partner relationships the organization has created.

Who are the partner relationships with?
We have an extensive partner list, including College of the Canyons, the City of Santa Clarita, the Small Business Development Center, the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, the California Manufacturing & Technology Association, the Valley Industry & Commerce Association, the Antelope Valley Board of Trade, the Ventura County Economic Development Corporation and the Professionals in Human Resources, to name several.

What programs does VIA have?

VIA hosts 12 monthly lunch meetings, a Regional B2B Industry Show and Conference, the VIA Star Contest for Young Entrepreneurs, Connecting to Success event (workforce preparation event that expects to train more than 2,000 high school juniors from seven schools this fall), and four “VIA ROCKS” networking events and Get Acquainted Breakfasts.

The VIA Star program also matches up school teams of three to five students (third grade and above) with a business, for which they ultimately create a new product or service.

In addition, we host a bi-annual CEO Forum to assist in gauging the needs and interests of our local CEOs, presidents and business owners.

VIA also conducts two business-education programs in conjunction with Franklin Covey, and one business education program in conjunction with College of the Canyons.

VIA actively works with COC’s work-force training programs to train and re-train the existing workforce to meet the hiring and skill needs of local businesses.

Members also receive peer-to-peer sessions as needed, and VIA offers outreach programs with our partner organizations in adjacent areas.

These programs are geared to specific industry groups or job classifications and serve to identify problems and develop solutions.

Some of these special outreach programs have been developed even in situations where companies are competitors, or have confidentiality issues that must be observed.

Members can also attend a variety of special seminars.

We also host a variety of ad hoc committees based on needs surveys, pending legislation or hot issues, as well as events centered on key issues for our membership that change from year-to-year.

Does VIA co-sponsor any programs?
Yes. In fact, VIA has an upcoming partnership event. VIA and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association in the San Fernando Valley are hosting an evening event called “November After Dark” with Cameron Smyth on Nov. 9.

Events will be scheduled more frequently in the future.

Our membership has stressed their need and desire to branch out into adjacent areas outside SCV.

VIA is working to assist them in building those valuable new relationships.


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