NEWPORT BEACH — Economic predictions for the coming year are heavy with "doom and gloom," but Orange County is faring better than many areas and loans are available for small-business owners, according to experts speaking at the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce's economic forecast.
The event, held Wednesday at the Island Hotel, was part of the chamber's ongoing Business Solutions NOW seminars and attracted about 300 attendees.
Panelists included UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business Dean Andrew Policano, Anfield Capital Management Executive Officer David Young, Commerce National Bank Executive Officer Mark Simmons and James Valle & Co. Executive Officer James Valle.
The forecast didn't bode well for U.S and global growth, which Young said is stalled.
A lack of job creation, consumer confidence and credit have led to a decrease in consumer spending, which in turn impedes long-term economic recovery, he said.
"With this slow amount of growth and inflation rising, we feel like we're in this sort of soup," Young said. "Those two don't normally go together."
Job creation won't pick up for another two to three years, he said.
However, panelists agreed that Orange County is faring better than the nation as a whole. In September, 13,400 new jobs were created here.
The outlook for small business is optimistic, as long as business owners adapt to the new "lean and mean" marketplace, Valle said.
"Business has evolved. The change is permanent, but the future is our creation," Valle said.
In order to convert challenge into opportunity, business owners need to "look back at the lessons you learned in Business 101," he said.
They need to re-examine their business model, position themselves to deliver the best customer value to their target audience, and enter the global marketplace if they are to survive through the next economic growth cycle, he said.
Now is the time for business owners to take advantage of the surplus of trained workers looking for jobs to grow their businesses, he said.
And for those looking for additional capital, there has never been a better time, with the prime lending rate at a low of 3.25%, Simmons said.
"There is plenty of money available in the banking and financial system, but it is different today than what it was," Simmons said.
While lending used to be relatively easy, today small banks are more cautious, due to penalties imposed by regulatory agencies. However, if you've had trouble qualifying for a loan in the past, now is the time to try again.
Getting a loan is possible if business owners can display that they are profitable though good financial statements and a comprehensive business plan, Simmons said.
"You don't need to go to the bar; go to the bank," Simmons said. "We'll be happy to see you."