City works on economic solutions amid pandemic

Closing Newhall’s Main Street to foot traffic is just one of the ways Santa Clarita has tried to create opportunities for businesses amid the pandemic. PHOTO BY DAN WATSON / THE SIGNAL
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Santa Clarita saw a slight improvement in its employment picture as businesses temporarily reopened in June.

But the uncertainty that looms large on the nature of closures is expected to hurt businesses for some time. Because just as businesses started to reopen, an emergency order closed them mid-July, leaving many looking for answers.

“The 2% increase is encouraging news and a good sign that our economy can start to quickly rebound when our businesses are open,” said Ivan Volschenk, managing partner at Evolve Business Strategies, which manages the SCV Chamber of Commerce. “However, we have to be aware that the recovery will likely remain uneven across industries and communities, and will be affected again by the new restrictions implemented earlier this week.”

Business advocacy groups have been working with the community and city of Santa Clarita, as officials try to address any concerns people have in reopening, said Jason Crawford, economic development director for the city of Santa Clarita. 

“It likely will be fluctuating for a little while,” Crawford said, acknowledging the city did see the unemployment rate improve from 20.6% to 18.6%, which is still significantly worse than even the worst numbers the city saw during the Great Recession. “This stretch of time — April, May and now June and into July — is the worst unemployment that we’ve had here in Santa Clarita that I’m aware of.”

Describing the recent reopening, and then closures many California counties experienced in the last few weeks as, “One step forward and then two steps back,” Crawford also shared what many have been learning and living: “The uncertainty is nearly as difficult for businesses as anything else.”

In terms of creating safe spaces for business, the city of Santa Clarita recently expanded its program that allows restaurants to use their outdoor space, by allowing other types of businesses to apply for similar exemptions. The idea is to give everyone more space to allow for social distancing in the marketplace.

Area data

The numbers demonstrate Santa Clarita is doing about as well as it can, considering all the factors.

The city’s rate of 18.6% unemployment, which is derived from 107,900 jobs and approximately 20,100 unemployment claims last month, is slightly better than most of the surrounding area. Burbank saw its rate stay above 20% at 22.6%, and Lancaster and Palmdale were at 19.8% and 20.8%, respectively.

Acton was at 15.2%, and Val Verde still had the worst reported rate for the region at 30.3%. Leading all cities and Census-designated places in Los Angeles County with a population over 10,000 people were Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach, with 10.1% and 11.1%, respectively.

Solutions

While the city is working to create new solutions as new problems occur, the community in Santa Clarita also has advocacy groups working on the behalf of businesses, as well. 

The Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp. has a local jobs board, in addition to its lobbying efforts. One can check out the local jobs available by visiting liveworkscv.com.

The SCV Chamber of Commerce, in addition to having information about their outreach available in the following pages, host a variety of networking, lobbying and other pro-business services, including events like their recent question-and-answer opportunity with the state’s lieutenant governor.

The organization is not just about networking for businesses and keeping them informed, it’s about working for reasonable solutions for businesses, too. 

“Our advocacy work has never been more important. We launched IMPACT SCV, a direct message advocacy program, to allow our members to make their voices heard. Recently, we joined the California Coalition for Safe Reopening which advocates for safe, reasonable and predictable reopening plans,” Volschenk said. “We will continue to provide resources and educational opportunities for our business community. Past webinars, local, state, and federal resources, and other pertinent information can all be found on our website scvchamber.com. The SCV Chamber will continue to be the main resource for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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