Monday, October 25, 2004

Chamber survey finds Vallejo business outlook improving

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

The results of the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce's most recent member satisfaction survey are in, and things are looking up for the chamber and, by extension, the city's business community, a chamber official said.

"Chamber growth is usually a good indicator of growth and expansion of the local business community, and the Vallejo chamber gained more than 120 new members so far this year," said chamber chief Rick Wells. "During the same period last year, we'd only gained 65 new members."

Chamber members were asked about what challenges their businesses face, what the chamber should be focusing on and a variety of other questions.

"We learned that the largest challenges for professionals involve profitability and growth," Wells said. "Exposure and local, state and federal regulations are the other major challenges our members face."

Wells said some of the answers in the category "other challenges," include the city's physical appearance and reputation, and the city's approach to economic development, both of which need improvement, some members said.

The biggest challenges facing Vallejo business owners are the city's perceived lack of focus and a lack of friendliness to businesses, members said.

Leo Sumner of The Tiberon Group, a construction industry consulting firm located on Mare Island, participated in the survey.

"I've lived in Vallejo since 1978, and I've seen the struggle with the base closure and everything. I think generally things are improving, coming back slowly but surely, and the chamber is working very hard to make that happen," Sumner said.

The Vallejo chamber conducts a member satisfaction survey quarterly "to ensure the chamber is continuing to address the needs of our membership," Wells said. About 22 percent of the chamber's 743 members participated.

In comparing the most resent findings to earlier surveys, Wells said many members are slightly less concerned this year with taxes and employee issues like workers' compensation insurance. And 93 percent of the recent survey's respondents said the chamber was relevant to their businesses compared to 89 percent when the last survey was done in April. Also, 93 percent of this survey's respondents found the chamber's staff accessible and responsive, compared to 88 percent in April.

The survey's results indicate the chamber is "on the right track," Wells said, adding that chamber officials will use the survey's results to help them determine next year's business strategies during a planning conference scheduled for next month.

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

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