CHICO, Calif. – The Chico Chamber of Commerce recently released its current Moving Chico Forward special report. It is a quarterly survey which takes the pulse of the local business community.
The latest responses highlight the challenges many business owners, as well as people who live in the city, face as the community evolves in a constantly changing environment.
Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough spent time with the Chico City Manager Mark Orme, and the President and CEO of the Chico Chamber of Commerce, Katy Thoma, to get their input on the winds of change blowing through the community.
“We’re accomplishing a tremendous amount in this community,” said Orme. “People moved here for a reason and those foundational pieces are still in effect.”
It is the state of the community from the perspective of business owners the special report gauges. In the most recent survey, the issues of housing, public safety and road conditions rounded out the top three concerns.
A recent protest outside a Chico City Council meeting highlights the current discontent many in the community have with public safety issues, including crime, needle distribution programs and homelessness. Dozens gathered downtown to let their opinions be known.
Such displays do not surprise Chamber President Thoma. She says public safety has become a huge issue and many business owners are not only upset; they are overwhelmed.
As a former banker, she says she would often hear the worries and concerns of business owners, which focused on cash flow and inventory.
“Now it’s an issue of safety for customers and employees,” said Thoma. “That has become a serious issue. We face it every day at the chamber. We have to step over people to get into our building every single day.”
Housing was the second most pressing issue. Many businesses expressed concerns of whether the region has sufficient supply to support the recruitment and retention of top quality employees.
“It’s a challenge trying to keep good talent; if they don’t have a place to live. Housing was an in issue before the Camp Fire, but now it is more of a challenge,” said Thoma.
At the intersection of public safety and staffing issues, is another factor impacting City of Chico employment. Two long-time public safety leaders; both with strong institutional knowledge of the region, have announced career changes.
Police Chief Michael O’Brien recently announced he will be retiring this summer after serving more than 20 years in the department. Chico Fire Department Division Chief Jesse Alexander left the city; to take over as Chief of the Yuba City Fire Department.
"We've trained up some amazing individuals here and allowed them to rise in this organization,” said Orme. “We need to celebrate the service they have given. It's good for them, but bad on our end because we do lose that level of expertise for this entity."
Both Orme and Thoma believe finding solutions which best serve the people of Chico, requires collaboration between city entities, businesses and political interests.
“I think we're in that mode where we have the financial pieces moving in the right direction and looking at future opportunities,” said Orme.
Thoma reminds the public to not get discouraged and to take action.
"If there are things that are bothering you, get engaged rather than being passive and expecting others to do it."
To read the full chamber special report, Moving Chico Forward, click here.