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For Robert B. Hartling, Orange County is a good place to be in business--and the operative word is good.

It is not quite excellent, he said, “because while there is a lot of money here, and a lot of people have well-paying jobs and people are comfortable and pretty well off, the cost of living is very high.”

As former general manager of the Regal Lanes bowling center in Orange--Southern California’s largest with 72 lanes--and new general manager of the Irvine Lanes center, he sees a cross section of the populace and can track economic trends by the amount of money being spent on recreational pursuits.


For the 53-year-old Hartling, who grew up in Montana, northern Idaho and the Pacific Northwest, it was a tie between the economy and the quality of life when he was asked to pick the county’s most attractive feature for businesses.

And despite his affinity for the wide-open environment in which he was raised and his concern about the quality of life here, Hartling does not see much good coming from the slow-growth initiative on next month’s ballot.

“Orange County is a great place to live, and that draws people, and when you are in a service industry like I am, a growing population helps business.” he said.

But more people also means more traffic, and Hartling--like a majority of the executives surveyed--finds traffic congestion to be the county’s worst feature because of the stress and “the wasted time we have to endure. It is very frustrating.”

So, like many other executives in the county, Hartling sees Orange County’s growth and attractiveness both as a boon and a bane.

But while many of those businessmen look to the slow-growth initiative to help cure the problems, Hartling sees it as causing even more troubles.


“I don’t think you can legislate things like that,” he said. “Isn’t this a free country? It would deprive people of the freedom to move here” by limiting the supply of housing and driving up prices to even more astronomical levels.

And, he said, using an argument shared by several other opponents of the measure, “it won’t have much impact, anyway. The big developers, the Irvine Co. and others who are powerful, will find ways of doing what they want.”

Still, like many of those who said they opposed the initiative, Hartling paused for a moment after giving his answer and then said that “something has to be done” to improve the transportation system, reduce traffic congestion and help solve some of the other problems that growth has brought to the county.