Only three more days before the big 20-14 arrives. What a year it has been for this area. You may still be reveling in Christmas, or planning your New Year”s Eve shebang, but it”s worth looking in the rear-view mirror.
We started the year with one of this area”s business and economic development icons heading to San Francisco. Bob Linscheid stepped into the executive director”s job at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. It was a stunning surprise for this area, with Linscheid”s long record of accomplishments here with the Chico chamber, Chico Economic Planning Corp. and Innovate-Northstate. He did continue as chair of the California State University board of trustees.
Economic development took another blow as city point man Shawn Tillman was among those laid off by the budget-wrenched city. City Manager Brian Nakamura said businesses could call him.
Doughnut giant Krispy Kreme returned to Chico after a several-year absence and a franchise bankruptcy, but it didn”t need a new address. The new franchise owner moved into the structure built for the original franchise in 2003.
In February, The Bookstore sealed its future with what was among the first crowdfunding campaigns in this area, asking supporters to contribute money in return for small gifts and discounts. It was successful in raising several thousand dollars that helped buy the business from the retiring owner.
June saw the hiring of Melanie Bassett as the Downtown Chico Business Association”s chief, after a number of months of interim and board leadership. Also making downtown history was the partnerships among the DCBA, the Chico Chamber of Commerce and others over community safety, which led to the landmark move by local businesses to hire private security guards to walk the streets so their customers felt safe.
Unfortunately, the year was marked by several historic businesses closing their doors or announcing their intentions to do so.
After 81 years, Steve and Betty Wakefield shuttered their window glass business, Wakefield Glass, as did jeweler Michael Hicks and Clifford”s Jewelers, which had been around since 1898. Barbara Mundy said Mundy and Co. Fine Jewelers will come to a close, and Brenda and Dennis McLaughlin said they hoped to find a buyer for Creekside Cellars wine and cheese shop. If not, they”ve said they will consider closing.
Tile City said the housing crunch had done too much damage, along with other factors, that led to a closure announcement.
But new businesses opened too. In the retail area, the biggest was likely the national Dick”s Sporting Goods, which brought new choices for sports and recreation gear into the Chico Mall.
Down Range indoor range opened, with an archery range for use, and bows, guns, ammo and accessories for sale. Next year, the business plans to unveil an indoor weapons range and what could be the longest archery range in California.
While it didn”t add positions, Weiss-McNair found a newly-erected building meant more room and expanded production capabilities for the manufacturer of nut processing equipment. It also gave the north state a peek into the company that usually runs under the radar, as was the case with Lulu”s online apparel and jewelry seller, which inched into the Wakefield vacancy. Both of those companies employ more than 90.
Likely the biggest positive news for the north state was Milestone Technologies” whoosh into town.
Most of Chico probably hadn”t heard of Milestone before 2012, but the Silicon Valley company came to settle with a small office of about a dozen people, answering technology questions in a call center. The company works for big names like Facebook, eBay and Google, answering equipment and program questions.
But Milestone came on strong in 2013, deciding to expand its operation in Chico to more than 400. This area has never seen a hiring boom like that. If you knew anything about technology or customer service, you had a chance at a job paying a minimum of $15 an hour plus benefits.
Milestone remodeled a building at the Chico airport, and is hosting a 24/7 operation, courtesy of a native north-state son. CEO Prem Chand”s family moved to Biggs when he was a baby. His formative years were spent in the area before heading to the Bay Area.
In explaining his Chico expansion, he said people have different values up here than in the Bay Area, and our kind of employee was what he wanted.
As massive as the Milestone hiring was, it was NOT a factor in the dropping unemployment rate. For the first time since November 2008, Butte County”s unemployment rate was a single digit in September and October, hinting at an improving economy.
We”re ending the year with Google balloon sightings as the Silicon Valley giant finds favorable launching from the Chico airport. It”s having test runs for its Google Loon project to improve worldwide Internet transmission via high-altitude balloons. Who knows where that will lead.
There wasn”t room here for all the openings, closures, movings and changes, but suffice to say that 2013 was a busy year. Hope 2014 is just as memorable, in good ways for you.
Reach Laura Urseny at email@example.com.