City To Explore Having Chamber Host Forum On Long Beach Businesses, Large And Small
But Several Councilmembers Oppose Chamber Involvement
By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
June 19, 2012 – A business forum for organizations large and small will likely occur in the near future, based on a vote by the Long Beach City Council at its June 12 meeting.
The council approved an item directing city management to contact the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to begin discussion on hosting a public forum for businesses in the city to express their concerns and address the city’s business friendly reputation. The item, put forth by 5th District Councilmember Gerrie Schipske, was inspired by City National Bank CEO Russell Goldsmith, the featured speaker at the chamber’s Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Luncheon in April, who addressed the need for businesses to work with their local elected officials to improve the process for opening and maintaining a business.
“We have been talking with the staff at the chamber. They are very enthusiastic about this. Mr. West, they would like to work with you about putting this together,” Schipske said at the meeting. “They think it would be a wonderful opportunity and also to dovetail with [the Council of Business Association (COBA)] survey that has just gone out . . . so that we can get feedback at the same time. Blair [Cohn] and [COBA] would love to participate as well. They just think it’s a great opportunity so that we could sit and listen and hear some of the concerns that they have that often we don’t get directly. Maybe staff gets it. But it’s a way for us to figure out if there’s something we can do to make things easier to grow business in Long Beach.”
Several councilmembers agreed that the timing for the forum should coincide with the completion of the business survey currently being conducted by COBA, which was made public earlier this year. West told the council that the survey has about 300 responses so far, and there is a goal of receiving about 1,200 total. For more information on COBA, call Cohn at 562/595-0081. To take the survey, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/cobasurvey.
Immediate objections to the chamber’s involvement in such a business forum came from 8th District Councilmember Rae Gabelich and 4th District Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell. In response, Schipske said, “ . . . the reality is that I think all of the business entities can work together, whether big or small.”
In addition, 1st District Councilmember Robert Garcia suggested that the Long Beach Small Business Development Center (SBDC) be involved in the forum as well. O’Donnell told the council that he believed the local SBDC should take the lead on the forum, to which 9th District Councilmember Steven Neal agreed.
“I’d just like to echo Councilmember O’Donnell’s sentiment. Not that I have anything against the chamber, but even in our attempts to organize the businesses in North Long Beach, when we were planning this . . . there’s not much interaction with the chamber in regards to what’s happening with the small mom and pop businesses,” Neal said. “I, for one, don’t see the value in this particular item. I do agree with what Patrick said, though.”
The chamber’s political action committee opposed O’Donnell in his recent, successful bid at a third term. The group also opposed councilman-elect Al Austin, who won in April and will succeed Gabelich, who supported Austin. Two years ago, the chamber opposed Neal for the 9th District seat.
West promised the council that the city will reach out to the chamber. “If the chamber takes a lift to actually host the event, I don’t see much work on our part except to be there and listen and bring back to the council and facilitate any changes,” he said.
Chamber Wants To ‘Fight For Business’
In response to the council’s action, Long Beach Chamber President/CEO Randy Gordon provided the Business Journal with the following statement:
“The Chamber is always excited to work with the city and other community leaders and stakeholders on business issues. The Chamber was put on this earth to fight for business and it is nice to hear that council would like to work with us on creating a more business friendly atmosphere in Long Beach. There are a lot of people who may not understand the vital role The Chamber plays in the promotion of all business at every level, whether they are small, medium, or large. Once again we are excited to work with each of the 9 council members and various business oriented entities here in Long Beach. This needs to be a citywide effort and collaboration will be the key to success. It’s fantastic that we are working towards being on the same page from square one in this process. We look forward to playing our part and hopefully this will be a giant step forward in the future economic vitality of this great city.”
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