IRVINE — About 700 community leaders and business owners gathered at the Irvine Marriott for breakfast, networking and to hear the latest economic news — good or bad — at Wednesday's 2012 Irvine Business Outlook.
Chamber of Commerce President Tallia Hart had nothing but good things to say about the city's economy.
"This is like writing vows," Hart joked before the crowd. "I have so much to say in so little time."
More than two-thirds of Irvine businesses reported that they do not expect to reduce operations this year, and 22% have plans to expand, Hart said, citing statistics from a just-released survey completed by the chamber, the Orange County Register and the MacKenzie Corp.
Overall, business owners reported cautious optimism, she said.
Hart also pointed to recent accolades, such as the city being named the safest large city in America in FBI rankings for the seventh consecutive year and high schools consistently placing in the top 10 for SAT scores in the county.
She was followed by half-hour presentations on the national and global economy by UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business Dean Andrew Policano and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Audience members can "crack the code for today's economy" by diversifying their portfolio, increasing personal savings, carefully selecting a mortgage and taking advantage of the available talent in the workforce, Policano said.
Granholm stressed the importance of government and business working together in tough economic climates — a message that resonated with many in the crowd.
"I think that you can get very myopic vision in a struggling economy and getting a bigger picture of what's going on in the country and the world can help you develop better business strategies," said Sam Murray, executive officer of ManagEase, a human resources service company in Irvine.
"The governor (Granholm) made a good point when she suggested that we develop a business strategy with the government as a partner," Murray said.
For others, the event was as much about gathering information as it was about networking and sizing up the competition.
"I like to see what the big players are doing," said Rob Larson, owner of Larson Lighting and Audio in Lake Forest.
While the company has a solid business plan that saw it through the recession, Larson said, business mixers are a great way for gaining a competitive advantage.
Aside from the information presented by the speakers, the underlying value of chamber events is found in the connections and idea-swapping among attendees, Hart said.
"It's being able to have access to 700 of some of the best business leaders and the opportunity for relationship building," Hart said.
The chamber hosts networking luncheons the second Wednesday of the month. More information on the events can be found at irvinechamber.com.