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VENTURA COUNTY BUSINESS | THE BUSINESS BEAT

City Hopes to Lure Companies by Being Good Company

March 21, 2000|MATT SURMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OXNARD — Steve Kinney, executive director of the Greater Oxnard Economic Development Corp., has no illusions about the challenges facing Oxnard.

Revive the flagging Ventura Freeway retail strip. Keep the industrial sector percolating. Woo new companies to the city.

But he thinks one way to help accomplish all those things may be to reach out to existing companies--to prove the city's friendliness to business.

In that spirit, Kinney and his colleagues have deemed the first week of April "Oxnard Business Week 2000," with five days of seminars, mixers with city officials and tours meant to reveal what the city can do for business--for those already here and those that might be interested.

In addition, the EDC will launch a "Made in Oxnard" campaign, a glossy brochure spotlighting six thriving companies that call Oxnard home.

"We want to elevate the profile of the business community here in Oxnard," Kinney said. "Being business-friendly is a full-time state of mind, not just while we're trying to get them here."

Additionally, he said, it's an indirect recruiting effort, a way of showing other companies how Oxnard firms are treated. The city wants to help, Kinney said.

And some areas can clearly use it.

Industry and manufacturing are soaring. But much of the city's income relies on the limping retail sector--thanks to the all-important sales tax revenue. AutoNation has closed. The Esplanade appears to be on its way out. The factory outlets are only trudging along.

So for the last three months, Kinney and his colleagues have been spending a third of their time on retail efforts, attempting to coax retailers to the open spots. In the past, the EDC's main focus was industry.

Even so, this is an appropriate time for the EDC to show its commitment to businesses already in the county, officials said.

"Most of our growth is through expansion," said Elizabeth Callahan, marketing director at the EDC. "We appear to focus all of our attention on attraction. But there is a balance."

Further, some said, the troubles with retail in the city are overstated, and focus needs to be returned to the sectors that are working--or are struggling less publicly.

"We mourn about the big losses, but you have to figure that 80% of a city's business is small business," said Don Facciano, president of the Greater Oxnard Chamber of Commerce, which is co-sponsoring some of the events. "We just need to keep up our good reputation."

So the groups are sponsoring seminars on such topics as marketing, work-force development and export development, a major growth opportunity for the city, Kinney said. The "Made in Oxnard" campaign is an attempt to showcase low-profile, but successful, companies in the city--and includes descriptions of Tubed Products Inc., a maker of cosmetics tubes; Accurate Engineering, a sheet metal manufacturer; and Artistica, a furniture designer. The brochures will be available in public places and through civic organizations and will also be included in marketing packets distributed to businesses.

In the meantime, for some of Oxnard's businesses, the city's retail struggles have been a blessing in disguise.

Telair International, which makes storage systems for aircraft in its facility near the 101 corridor, also is featured in the city's marketing campaign.

"It's a temporary thing, but quite honestly it's good for us," said Alex Rivera of the retail struggles. "We were worrying about traffic when this building sprouted up. Now it's not a problem."

FYI

For a list of seminars or information, call 385-7444.

SHARING THE WEALTH

* Interlink Electronics in Camarillo approved a three-for-two split of its common stock. B6

* MORE BUSINESS NEWS: B6-9

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