Goleta Leaders Address State of the City Amid COVID-19 and Ever-Changing Business Climate

Click here to view the Goleta State of the City 

With all of the challenges that have come with the rapid outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, local leaders gathered to give an update on the ever-changing business climate at Friday’s Goleta State of the City address.

“It’s been an unbelievably challenging year,” Kristen Miller, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, said in introducing the Zoomwebcast. “No one could have predicted the upheaval in our lives, our businesses and our communities.”

While the crisis has been tough on employees, organizations and businesses, there is a silver lining in the way that businesses have been able to adapt and find opportunities amid the adversity, according to Dave Powers, president and CEO of Deckers Brands.

“For us, challenges present opportunities to adapt, to innovate and to grow stronger together,” he said. “We have really noticed that being of service to others is a great way to find a sense of higher purpose and combat the feelings of stress, anxiety and exhaustion.”

Deckers recently held its first-ever Active Kindness Event, a global event that gave employees a week to actively serve their communities. The event culminated in 2,000 volunteer hours across the globe and supported more than 200 charities in one week, Powers said.

Throughout the contagion, Deckers has had to focus on what matters most to the business, and it came closer together as a global organization because of it, Powers said. With a record second quarter of the fiscal year, Deckers shifted its marketing investments to drive e-commerce and better connect with consumers.

Acknowledging that small businesses in Santa Barbara County and Goleta are the “lifeline of the community,” Deckers worked with the Santa Barbara Foundation to create the Santa Barbara Better Together Fund. The effort has raised and donated up to $1 million to local small businesses, 19 of which are in Goleta, according to Powers.

Shopping centers in Goleta are anchored with businesses that are deemed essential, and the city relies on those centers for its diverse tenant mix and service offerings, said Mark Ingalls, property manager at Camino Real Marketplace, at 7004 Marketplace Drive.

As Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March stay-at-home order sent shock waves through the economy, few retail sectors were deemed essential. The threats of supply chain disruption in essential consumer products led to panic-buying that caused tenants such as Costco and Home Depot to post double-digit increases in sales for the 2020 second quarter, according to Ingalls.

However, almost all other retail categories in the second quarter reported decreases of 75 percent to 100 percent in sales for the same period.

“Information was coming in waves,” Ingalls said. “Mixed messages and a lack of clear information made it difficult for businesses to pivot, not knowing if the changes and modifications they would need to make would be temporary or longer-lasting.”

Camino Real Marketplace assisted its restaurant tenants in obtaining Paycheck Protection Program loans under the CARES Act and worked individually with each on rent deferrals and payment schedules, and encouraged them to take whatever measures needed to remain open for business.

By looking at every possible way to reduce operational costs to reflect any decreases in the volume of the shopping center, Ingalls reported that the company was able to keep 100 percent of its staff on payroll and at work.

Sales numbers started creeping back up in the third quarter as consumers gained the confidence to shop and dine again safely, according to Ingalls.

“With the recent spike of COVID cases in Santa Barbara County, more uncertainty is back,” he said. “However, we feel we are better prepared to meet the challenge of sudden changes, new restrictions and mandates.”

Lauren Hanson, board president of the Goleta Water District, shared how the district had to adjust its daily business in the midst of the pandemic. She said board colleagues are fortunate to work with a dedicated and capable group to continue to provide a safe and reliable water supply to the residents of the Goleta Valley.

There has been careful operation and maintenance of water systems to maintain the level of service the community expects, Hanson said, and critical investments and treatment in delivery systems remain ongoing.

Aerie DeJong, vice president of Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, at 351 S. Patterson Ave., shared plans to relocate the entire Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital, at 2415 De la Vina St. in Santa Barbara, to the Goleta campus by the end of 2023.

“The new rehabilitation hospital will offer state-of-the-art technology to accompany highly trained and compassionate staff,” he said.

The new hospital will include an entirely new aquatic center, an aesthetic redesign to the main lobby to accommodate the increase of traffic, a restorative therapeutic garden, and indoor and outdoor gathering and treatment spaces, according to DeJong.

Dr. Robin Malone, chief of staff at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, urged patients to seek prompt care for all medical emergencies and reminded the audience that it is safe to do so. Cottage has implemented new protocols and holds sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of patients, she said.

As the county is preparing for a surge in COVID-19 cases, Cottage Health hospitals and clinics continue to provide safe care to the community, said Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, an infectious disease specialist at Cottage Health.

“What we’re facing now is perhaps of greater magnitude,” she said, “but we’re going into it better armed than ever before.”

The Goleta State of the City presentation was the third in a four-part series coordinated by the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber, which was created over the summer — in large part because of the COVID-19 crisis — with the merger of the Goleta, Santa Barbara and Carpinteria Valley chambers of commerce. The new chamber, representing 1,100 members, is the largest business organization on the South Coast.

The Carpinteria State of the City was held in September, followed by Santa Barbara in October, with the State of Santa Barbara County scheduled for Dec. 11.

Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at jmartinez-pogue@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Goleta Chamber of Commerce

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