Central Valley Business Journal, January 2012
By KEITH MICHAUD/Business Journal Editor
Mark Martinez loves it when the eyes of business owners brighten with the realization that forecasting information can tell them so much about where their business is and where it can go.
Martinez, the chief executive officer of the San Joaquin County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, expects to see that expression quite a bit on Jan. 19 when his agency hosts its second annual Business Forecast Conference.
“This is a very valuable tool,” said Martinez of business forecasting. “So many business owners are so focused on running their businesses that often times they don’t research the global economy and how it affects them locally.”
Most small business owners have never seen a business forecast, said Martinez. It is satisfying when they do and the “light goes on in their eyes.” It is then that they understand how the global economy affects local business, he said.
At last year’s Business Forecast Conference it was a local body shop owner who could not quite pinpoint the drag on his business, said Martinez. The business owner was able to shift customer service, marketing and overall business strategy after hearing the forecast and realizing that several factors were at work – transportation was down, commuters being laid off, general economic downturn.
Organizers believe the conference is unique in the region
because it looks at the global, national, state and local influences on the regional economy and because it is open to the public – such economic forecasting events usually are invitation-only.
“If you’re not in the top tier, you might not be invited (to other economic forecasting events),” said Sylvester Aguilar, senior vice president and regional manager of Bank of the West and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s treasurer. “What we asked our speakers to do was to drive it down to that business right here.”
The event also will have an impressive list of keynote speakers – Jeffrey Michael, director of the University of the Pacific’s Business Forecast Center, and Michael Stead, director of capital markets for Bank of the West – and discussion panelists. Those panelists include Fritz Grupe of The Grupe Co., Jose Blanco of Central Valley Fund, Bruce Blodgett of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau, and Corwin Harper, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser Permanente.
“The idea of the conference came from literally thinking ‘What’s occurring in the economy?’” said Martinez. “It can be very confusing to know what’s going on in the economy.”
He said information in one news story might provide an upbeat look at the economy, while the next story might indicate quite the opposite.
Organizers want to show the impact the global economy has on local businesses to show local businesses owners what to expect so they can make adjustments in the coming year.
Aguilar said Pacific and Bank of the West used sophisticated models using government data for the information to be presented on Jan. 19.
Mark Plovnick, Pacific’s economic development director, said the university’s partnership with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, San Joaquin County, and Bank of the West in presenting the conference is a “happy marriage.”
He said the latest quarterly report from Pacific’s Business Forecast Center showed at least a glimmer of hope that the economy was improving. While the general improvement is slow and steady, that report pointed to two major projects – the Port of Stockton’s expanding services to include shipping containers and the construction of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation hospital – as being significant in providing for construction jobs and generating jobs later.
“The last (Business Forecast Center) forecast did show some optimism,” said Plovnick. “That’s the first light at the end of the tunnel in a couple of years. … There are a lot of things that are paving the way to a better economy.”
If you go:
• Registration and breakfast begin at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 19
• Program runs 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.
• Located at the San Joaquin County, Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center, 2101 E. Earhart Ave., Suite 200, Stockton
• Tickets are $75 per person