By Brian Bullock/Staff Writer email@example.com Santa Maria Times | Posted: Saturday, March 19, 2011 12:26 am
Even though the runway expansion project at the Santa Maria Public Airport has run into unexpected challenges, it’s still on approach to open later this year.
The $3.5 million first phase that includes infrastructure improvements and extension of the taxiway has required tweaking because the contractor, Granite Construction, ran into unexpected soil conditions. But airport General Manager Chris Hastert said the project is still on schedule.
The changes will add $44,000 to the final cost of the first phase of the project. It also will move the completion date of the first phase back by about a month to May 18.
Granite Construction was one of three companies to submit a bid for the project, which was $1.2 million under an engineer’s estimate of $4.8 million. The original completion date was April 12.
A grant from the Federal Aviation Administration is paying for 95 percent of the first phase.
The second phase of the project is estimated to cost around $8 million and also will mostly be funded by the FAA.
Hastert said the second phase has a “smaller footprint but is more intensive.” That phase will extend the runway pavement 1,700 feet and relocate the airport’s navigational aids for the Instrument Landing System.
When it’s finished, the main runway will be 8,004 feet, which will allow the airport to handle larger aircraft and more corporate and private jets.
The second phase will be put out for bids in late May with the bid opening scheduled for June 21, Hastert said.
Hastert said the two-phase project should be “paved and ready to certify” by Oct. 15. He said the full approaches, which include flight path electronics, would be completed and certified by the FAA by Dec. 15.
“That’s a date set in stone by the FAA,” Hastert said.
By Brian Bullock/Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org Santa Maria Times | Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 11:47 pm
Even though many small business owners are still hurting from the 3-year-old economic downturn, the overall economy in the Santa Maria Valley is picking up, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Santa Maria Economic Development Commission.
The Economic Development Survey tallied 171 responses from local business people on what they thought of the business climate in the valley. EDC director Dave Cross said the responses ranged from predictable to encouraging.
Small businesses — those with 10 or fewer employees — are still reeling from the recession, Cross said. Seventy-four of the responses to the survey came from small, “mom and pop” businesses. Among those, retail sales are still struggling to recover. The survey indicated nearly 44 percent of retail businesses reported fewer sales in the fourth quarter of 2010 than in the same period in 2009. That slow recovery isn’t helping the state, county or region lower unemployment rates, either.
Dennis Leidall, business liaison for the Workforce Investment Board of Santa Barbara County, said the county’s January unemployment rate is 10.1 percent. That’s lower than the state’s 12.4 percent, and substantially lower than Santa Maria’s 15.5 percent and Lompoc’s 14.4 percent.
While sales are still down, most other local industries reported similar or improving business over 2009. In the hospitality industry, 67 percent of restaurants and 43 percent of hotels reported a better final quarter of 2010. Sixty-five percent of finance and banking respondents also indicated more business.
Cross said it appears light industrial and manufacturing could lead the Santa Maria Valley out of the economic doldrums. Forty-five percent of those businesses responding to the survey indicated a more prosperous 2010.
He singled out C and D Zodiac, Inc., which manufactures commercial aircraft interiors, as a shining light at the end of the recessional tunnel. The company currently employs 500, including 80 recent hires, and has plans to add around 200 more before the end of the year, Cross said.
Construction is also under way at a Windset Farms growing facility west of town. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company is building a greenhouse vegetable farming operation that will feature a 170,000-square-foot packing facility. Cross said there are about 100 construction workers on site, and when the operation is in full swing, it will feature some 200 production employees.
“The larger companies, they’re going to be the ones doing the hiring,” Cross said. “That’s the future of Santa Maria when you talk manufacturing, industrial and the airport.”
Expansion of the runway at the Santa Maria Municipal Airport and development of the airport business park are two other factors Cross said will help energize local business. The business park calls for development of approximately 132 acres of light industrial and manufacturing.
Leidall said construction, information systems and health care are industries that will be hiring, while jobs in agriculture, financing and real estate and software development and manufacturing will fade.
The survey indicated most local businesses — approximately 75 percent — are optimistic about the future, Cross said. Only 38 percent of retail business owners see good times ahead this year, while 86 percent of hotels respondents forecast a better 2011. The agriculture industry is a little more skeptical about the economy, with 80 percent of respondents predicting no change in the economy. Even though most local business owners were generally optimistic about the future of their businesses, only 35 percent think the economy overall will improve.
Dave Cross/Improving North County Santa Maria Times | Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2011 12:00 am
As concerns about the local economy continue, there are hopeful signs we have made it through the worst and we are finally on a slow path toward recovery.
Santa Maria is one of the very few cities in California that has consistently invested in economic development, and the region stands to benefit from its investment as the economy improves.
The city financially supports the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Commission. The Santa Maria Public Airport District has followed suit, providing financial support while working to position itself for a strong economic future.
The Chamber of Commerce provided a local stimulus effort with an aggressive “Thanks for shopping Santa Maria” campaign put into place to bolster fourth quarter sales in 2010. That critical time frame is make-or-break for many local retailers. It was well-received by local businesses and the community. While the sales figures are not yet available, it will hopefully have contributed to stemming the tide in a two-year downward trend in retail sales.
The Santa Maria Economic Development Commission works as a department of the chamber, and is marketing the region to prospective companies. It has also been aggressive in retention efforts and strengthening local industry and manufacturing.
The EDC sponsors a strong manufacturers association, and provides workshops, programs and resources to assist this important segment of our economy.
Santa Maria has a robust industrial element, which provides higher wages than retail and agriculture, and its stability is critical to our region.
Construction, which provides the highest wages, has been decimated, with a staggering 50-percent unemployment rate. This puts enormous pressure on local industry to remain solid, and this is where Santa Maria’s investment will pay off.
In contrast to the downward trend in construction, some manufacturers are doing well, and the success of these companies reveals where industry may be heading. Companies that repackage existing products, embrace technology, focus on improving health care and providing equipment for essential services are the strongest performers.
C&D Zodiac, at the airport, retrofits aircraft interiors and has benefitted from the fact that airlines and private owners would rather retrofit their existing fleet than purchase new aircraft. The company employs almost 450 workers and could be expanding their workforce in the future.
Fusion Call Centers is a Santa Maria-based customer-service center that has quietly become one of the area’s top employers, with over 500 workers. Riding the wave of online technology, Fusion provides real-time customer service to social network sites like Facebook, and for online gaming.
Hardy Diagnostics, another top local employer, provides medical supplies and products for laboratory research. The company is benefiting from a strong health care industry.
Other Santa Maria companies that have weathered the storm and are preparing to move ahead include the manufacturing of fire hoses, wire and cable, industrial couplers, baby care products, high tech communications equipment, agricultural packaging, directional drilling equipment and many other products.
Looking past the current economic situation and into the future, the city has set aside 900 acres in what is called Area 9 for industrial expansion, and the city has available State Water to accommodate growth.
The future business park at the airport will also play an important role by providing over 700 acres of additional industrial space.
Union Valley Parkway, which is under construction, will provide direct access from Highway 101 to the business park, which shows yet another way Santa Maria is positioning itself to attract companies that will provide the kinds of jobs we need for our area.
While the economy continues to struggle, Santa Maria is looking ahead and showing signs of benefiting from investing in economic development. The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Commission will continue their role in supporting local business and attracting companies to the area.
Dave Cross is vice chairman of Committee INC, and director of the Santa Maria Economic Development Commission.
Posted in Commentary on Thursday, February 24, 2011 12:00 am