In the Simi Valley Acorn Today!

I couldn’t be more delighted about the Simi Valley Acorn article that was published in today’s paper about my efforts to shine a light on Simi Valley.  I truly hope it’s read as a humble effort.  I want very much to be successful with this project, but I certainly don’t believe I’m better than anyone else or more qualified than any of the other community super-stars who are currently making an impact.

Chandler, 34, said his goal in creating the website was to help educate people about the goings-on of local government and to get them excited about the process.

True, that was definitely the idea at first, and certainly what brought to life, but I want a whole lot more with The Simi Show.  I want to show people that we’ve got a terrific community, full of good people, great businesses, family fun and valuable community services.  The Shop Simi Valley First campaign WILL come up, but it will be less about budgeting and effectiveness and more about why shopping in Simi is just better than leaving the city!

Councilmember Steve Sojka, a proponent of the shop local campaign and chair of the Small Business Advisory Committee, said Chandler’s criticism of Shop Simi is misguided. Sojka said that some local pizza places have bigger advertising budgets than the campaign.

Though they may differ on issues, the council member said he thinks “The Simi Show” is a good idea—if done right.

“It’s good to get people engaged,” Sojka said. “I hope that whatever issue he deals with, he does his research. It’s easy to create a controversy, but you want to see someone who just reports facts in a fair and balanced way. That does the community a good service.”

I like Steve Sojka, but I don’t think he believes that.  He takes my criticism personally it seems and suggesting my criticism is misguided makes me wonder if he understands my point.

Shop Simi Valley First shouldn’t be about targeting the businesses.  Businesses should be participating in the program by contributing to its marketing, not sitting back and waiting for the city to spend money.  Why?  Because they benefit too.  The target is SHOPPERS and if local retail numbers aren’t increasing measurably after spending $100K, then shoppers either aren’t getting the message or it simply isn’t working and new strategy is needed.  Pizza places with $100K marketing budgets have them because they produce measurable, financial results.

I want to find really cool businesses, shops and business owners and showcase them individually, one by one.  It’ll take some time and it’s a slow process, but it’ll show my audience some of our community’s great features, as well as bring in some curious new customers to some retail shops.  Plus, it won’t cost me too much.

Chandler said he hopes to expand “The Simi Show” by inviting outside contributors to add their own content, including interviews, hard news stories and perhaps guest commentaries. He also wants to profile local businesses and cover the landfill expansion issue.

I really want to do as much as I possibly can.  Employment is a big concern for me now considering our economy and I’m feverishly working on a portal to present Simi Valley job seekers with powerful tools to find work.  I’m also a big believer in the power of the Internet and want to provide an online community for everyone in Simi Valley to do the exact same thing that I’m doing.  The technology is there… I just want to open the door and let my fellow Simi Valley citizens join the party.

If that’s misguided, so be it!

Read the full article in the Simi Valley Acorn here.

UPDATE: Brian Dennert mentions the article here.  Thanks Brian!

Simi Valley and Local Businesses

Ted Mackel published one of the most interesting articles I’ve read related to the City of Simi Valley and how they work with local businesses.  As a local business owner, I definitely found his take interesting.  His first point grabbed me immediately…

The Future of Simi Valley Retail is under attack and round one will prove to be tough reality for Simi Valley as the Thousand Oaks Mall will again take shoppers away from local businesses.

It’s an excellent point.  Rumor has it, the Oaks Mall began its redesign phase in direct response to the potential threat to its business resulting in new area malls, namely Simi Valley Town Center.

The opening of the Simi Mall was a well celebrated event in our town, promising an influx of new sales tax dollars to Simi Valley’s general fund.  Of course, small business owners, like Bruce Witkin (former candidate for Simi Valley mayor) were disenchanted by the idea of a mall that takes shoppers from the smaller strip malls and plants them in the Town Center mall, despite the increase tax revenue to the city.  You see, this particular example of increased tax revenue represents a potential loss to small business owners who aren’t in the mall, including restaurants.  Remember Hudson’s Grill?  Who’d have ever expected that restaurant to close?  But they did, and the reason they cited was the loss in foot traffic resulting from the new mall.

Ted goes on to discuss not only the Oaks Mall redesign, but also the Topanga Mall’s planned enhancements as well…

Something this exciting and this large will definitely draw shoppers out of Simi Valley and no matter how much our Chamber of Commerce and our City Council fight to convince Simi Valley residents to “Shop Simi Valley First”,  these two modern and behemoth projects (TO & Westfield) that bookend our town cannot be willed away.  This is like trying to hide and elephant under the living room carpet.

Give the article a read by clicking here.  It’s not a message of doom, but rather a few suggestions from someone with a few generations of real estate development under his belt.

Simi Valley Employment Survey Results

A huge thanks to Brian Dennert for pointing people my way to take this poll.  The results are pretty interesting.  When this survey is taken by a national audience, I found most people indicated that the nature of the economy is such that most people are concerned about the stability of their jobs within the next 12 months.  Despite that fact, most people were unwilling to accept a pay cut to reduce company expenses.  Also, despite the economic climate, most people still expect their annual raise or bonus, even if they indicated they believed their job was at risk!

Simi Valley, on the other hand, is different.  Few people are worried about losing their jobs, but it seems those that are concerned are willing to accept a pay cut and aren’t anticipating pay increases.  Here are the results.

Q.1 Are you concerned that your position might be laid off or terminated within the next 6 months?
YES – 16%
NO – 84%

Q.2 Are you concerned that your position might be laid off or terminated within the next 12 months?
YES – 37%
NO – 63%

Q.3 Would you be willing to accept a pay cut if you believed your job was in jeopardy?
YES – 74%
NO – 26%

Q.4 Are you expecting a salary increase within the next 12 months?
YES – 53%
NO – 47%

Q.5 If you usually receive an annual bonus, do you expect to receive one in 2009?
YES – 21%
NO – 26%
NOT SURE – 53%

The question I have is what level of obligation will the city of Simi Valley take on in regards to the increasing unemployment rate?  Does the city have programs in place to help match local employers with local job seekers?  I know the private sector has services in place at a significant cost to employers, unfortunately.  Also, there are programs at the State and County level as well.

My interest in this topic relates to a personal project in progress.  As the city chops millions of dollars from their budget, it’s difficult to predict what programs they’ll have in place to help boost our economy.  Having said that, I’m redeveloping an existing application that I plan to use as a tool to match employers with job seekers in Simi Valley.  The concept in my mind truly keeps business in town and reduces expenses.  Matching local job hunters with local employers keeps our cash flow local and reduces fuel expenses, saving individuals’ dollars and boosting our local economy.

I’m hoping to fine tune the application and relaunch it as a completely free service.  I’m also hoping for the city’s endorsement or support, but I’m ready to press on without it.  I look forward to your feedback if you have any.

Simi Business – Room for Change

This month, the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce will honor its selected Business and Business Person of the Year for 2008.  The honorees are chosen and like most years, the names and businesses are names and businesses you know.  I always hope that each year I’ll read the names of someone I’ve never heard of before whose business or business activites were the diamond in the rough, the quiet hero of the business community.  But it’s never so…

That’s not to say the people the Chamber selects each year aren’t deserving.  They definitely are.  These business people are well known in the community because of their honorable contributions.  However, there are so many more business people and businesses that are members of the Chamber who contribute to the community significantly.  Unfortunately, if they’re not the type to be comfortable in a setting where there’s a lot of handshaking and passing of business cards, their contributions can easily go unnoticed.

For more than 25 years, there was a Simi Valley business owner who contributed significantly to the youth of our city.  His business taught kids physical, athletic skills regardless of whether or not they were naturally gifted athletes.  Many of these student athletes became employees, teaching the next generation what they learned as kids.  Simi Valley kids were taught they could achieve what they thought was impossible, in a nurturing, family-oriented environment.  This business taught without discrimination, including even kids with disabilities, proving to everyone that even kids with special needs could thrive.  This business was a member of the Chamber of Commerce since its opening day, but was never recognized.

This is the story I tell people when they ask me what I’m trying to accomplish with my various websites and online videos.  There’s a lot going on in Simi Valley and the more we all know, the tighter a community we will be.

Simi Valley Employment Survey

I’m currently in the midst of completing, among several other web based projects, an employment portal specifically geared towards the Simi Valley community.  Personally, I think we have a troubling couple of quarters ahead of us and I’d like to see our community work together to keep us all out of harms way.

To give me a better sense of how to prepare my site content, could you please assist me by taking the following survey?  I promise you, it’s extremely painless and super fast.  It’ll give me a clear sense of the minds of the Simi Valley working class.

Thanks so much for your help!

City Officials Manage Budget Effectively

Weeks ago, I sat in the City Council meeting anxious to hear news about the city budget, knowing the city was pressured to cut just more than 3 million dollars from the budget without eliminating jobs.  City employees sat near me, even more anxious, seemingly unsure where things stood.

City Manager Mike Sedell began going through the proposed budget modifications line by line, with brief explanations of the impact of each decision.  For example, when we heard the DARE program was being cut, Sedell quickly clarified that the cut was not a permanent removal of the program, but rather a postponement.  DARE would begin again later in the year and the city would look at ways to reduce the expense.  Even Mayor Miller suggested having the program led by a retired officer rather than pulling an office out of the field.

Programs like Shop Simi Valley First will certainly be effected, though I can’t recall specifically whether or not it was mentioned that night at the council meeting.  In the past, I’ve been critical of the city’s spending on this program, not because the program itself is a bad one, but rather because I believe with the vested interest of business owners, the cost of the program should be a shared cost.  It will be interesting to see how organizations like the Chamber of Commerce step-up during this crisis to ensure the program stays alive.  It should be noted that if the city or the Chamber are looking for volunteers, here I am! 🙂

In economic situations like these, I couldn’t be more delighted to see how important it is to the city to retain their employees.  Unemployment is the harshest aspect of a recession, making things much worse before they get better.  The City of Simi Valley has done an amazing job of keeping people employed.  I read the following in the Ventura County Star the other day:

Some of the people in the positions eliminated already had planned to leave their jobs. Others were sent to different city assignments, officials said.

Simi is waiting for an eventual resolution to the state’s fiscal crisis, and “it will undoubtedly bring further damage to the revenue which we rely upon to provide services to our residents,” Sedell said.

Sedell said Simi officials have managed taxpayers’ resources well, and unlike state legislators, haven’t overspent.

“We will find a way to provide the quality local services that residents have come to expect,” Sedell said.

Read the whole article online here.

Cheers to the City of Simi Valley for a job well done.