Web-first version: Business, community leaders work to find solutions to economic blues

Central Valley Economic Recovery Focus Group Report

Central Valley Economic Recovery Focus Group Report

Central Valley Business Journal, April 26, 2012

By KEITH MICHAUD/Business Journal Editor

An effort to pull the Central Valley from protracted economic doldrums is moving to the next phase, one that ultimately could provide small businesses with resources they desperately need, a friendlier business climate they desire, and a trained workforce they badly crave.

Stu Gilman, chief executive officer of External Resources Inc., which provides professionals to fill interim and permanent openings in private and public sectors with offices in Stockton and Modesto, over the course of several months invited a broad range of leaders in various fields to join as focus groups to discuss what was needed to put the Central Valley back on the road to prosperity.

“Last fall we decided to demonstrate our commitment as a Central Valley community leader by partnering with public and private sector leaders, CEOs, and other professionals to identify the unique needs, business development services, and solutions necessary to promote a healthy Central Valley economic recovery using a well-planned and orchestrated systematic approach,” reads a portion of External Resources’ report that came from those focus group meetings in December, January and February.

Gilman said the focus group objectives were to gather “involvement from the Central Valley public and private sector community and business leaders that allows us to understand the specific needs unique to our business climate” and find a starting point from which those people could come up with a priorities and a plan for relevant solutions and measurable results.

In April and May, External Resources reported back to the people who were in those focus groups and others to get more input and decide how to move forwarded with a comprehensive way to help businesses.

The challenges and issues identified in those focus groups are not surprising to people trying to start or maintain a business:

Major Central Valley negative image and perception;

Unfriendly business climate, especially when it comes to regulations and compliance;

Access to capital and resources;

Small business development; and

Workforce development.

Several possible solutions were presented in the report, including a undertaking a marketing campaign to change the perception – internally and externally – and enhance the local economy, create a marketing campaign to draw large businesses to relocate to the Central Valley, create a one-stop resource directory or clearing house for all business services, create and support programs to educate the workforce to become more skilled, and accelerate and streamline the compliance and regulations process.

“Participants agreed this is an ideal time to take action,” read the report’s conclusion. “We will meet again to review the findings and use what we have learned to work together to build a plan that successfully resolves the obstacles that hinder the Central Valley’s quality of life, positive self-image, and economic prosperity.”

People interested in attending the last of the meetings to discuss the report should  contact External Resources Inc. at 209-491-2200 or visit www.externalresources.net.

Contact the author about this and other stories at kmichaud@cvbizjournal.com.

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