Friday, January 30, 2009

It's hunker down time for Bakersfield business leaders; wondering when the recession will pass

They say misery loves company, and there's plenty of company in the misery club during this recession. Talk to any business person or executive in town and the refrain is similiar: "we're hunkering down" until things improve. And the consensus seems to be that instead of a recovery in 2010, it may be 2011 or 2012 before things get appreciably better. Consider:
* Talked to Bruce Freeman, president of Castle & Cooke, who told me the company is sitting on some prime land in the Central Valley and has all the permits pulled ready to develop but simply can't until things get better. Castle & Cooke is singularly responsible for some of the highest end developments in Bakersfield (think Seven Oaks and the Marketplace) and has been forced into a sort of semi hibernation waiting for the storm to pass.
* Over at Jim Burke Ford marketing czar Kyle Northway is encouraged that Ford - among the Big Three - is best poised to make a recovery. And it doesn't hurt that the family-run company, now led by Dan Hay, takes a long-term view and is not whipped by the winds of a need for short-term profits.
"I can tell you the employees at our dealerships have come to realize just how good our management team and especially Dan Hay, our company president, really is with counting the beans and working out plans that fit the economy," Kyle told me.
* Local Realtors, including high-end residential expert Mary Christiansen, likewise have hunkered down but see some signs of thawing as sales pick up despite lower prices.
These are all quality companies and quality business people who will certainly ride out this recession, but not without what Mary calls "some pain." But she adds with characteristic optimism: "It will get better!"

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