Annual ‘walk’ connects city, chamber and local businesses

VISTA — On Sept. 28 approximately 50 volunteer teams gathered for the Vista C.A.R.E.s. seventh annual Business Walk. The event isn’t competitive or recreational, but rather an opportunity for the city of Vista and the Vista Chamber of Commerce to collaborate and connect with local businesses.

The groups gathered at Hyatt Place in the business park and then split up to conduct surveys that garner information to help area businesses succeed.

According to Vista Chamber of Commerce CEO Bret Schanzenbach, the annual walk —  the name of which stands for “Communicate, Assist, Retain, Expand” — targets mostly larger businesses.

“Our goal is always to visit 250 businesses that day with the hope of getting over 100 surveys filled out,” said Schanzenbach, adding that it takes roughly 10 minutes to complete a survey. “The purpose of the survey is to check in with the health of our businesses in the business park.”

Questions range from the perceptions of how one’s business will grow or decline in the next three years, to employee numbers and whether relocation is a consideration. Another important question is whether the company is international or has plans to go in that direction.

“We’re trying to get a good sense of where they are at and where they are seeing their business going in the future,” Schanzenbach said. “And then we ask them questions about if there are any specific issues that they are struggling with that we can help with at the city level and that the chamber can advocate for them.”

Schanzenbach said the Vista C.A.R.E.s Business Walk is important because volunteers, the city and the chamber care about what businesses in the area are facing.

Kevin Ham, the economic development director for the city of Vista, said the Vista C.A.R.E.s Business Walk comes down to good customer service. The mission is to find out what companies in the business park need to be successful.

The 10-question survey gauges the temperature of the business community to see how businesses are doing each year and to see if they are on track, Ham said.

Iron Fist Brewery, a business that has been in Vista for seven years, benefited from the survey in a previous event. The owner, Greg Sieminski, wanted to add an outdoor seating area. He described the city of Vista as very easy to work with.

“During the survey, we talked to them (the volunteers) about our venue because we wanted to extend the outside area for our customers,” he said. “They (city of Vista) were so helpful with this.”

Sieminski pointed out that the additional outdoor 1,000-square-foot area seats 50 more patrons. Ham said that survey initiated a visit to the establishment and a conversation with Sieminski. 

Another business benefitting from the Vista C.A.R.E.s Business Walk is a water quality testing company, Precision Measurement Engineering. The 30-year-old company has been located in Vista for the last seven years. 

“The company needed to find connections in the marketplace who might be people in their category of business to talk to — so the mayor, the city manager, myself and our community development director went out and talked to them,” Ham said. “We found out what their needs were and we gave them a number of resources for people to follow up with like an individual who runs the desalination plant in Carlsbad.”

Kristen Elliott, the CEO of Precision Measurement Engineering, said she wasn’t around when the volunteers stopped by on a previous walk but her staff provided her with an update.

“They (the volunteers) introduced themselves with the city of Vista and asked if we wanted to meet with maybe the mayor and some other people,” Elliot said. “We thought it might be a good idea because we design water quality sensors.”

A couple of months later, a meeting was scheduled and the results were positive. Elliot said doing business in Vista has been great. 

“The surroundings are really nice,” she said. “We have people who visit us, and they always like the location because it’s close to the freeway and close to the 78 so they can come from all over the San Diego County and even Los Angeles.”

The Vista C.A.R.E.s Business Walk is one component of Vista C.A.R.E.s. Ham said the platform is a concerted effort to really discern the needs of the business community to help them thrive.  For more information, visit http://www.cityofvista.com/business/economic-development or call (760) 639-6165.

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