It has been both an honor and a pleasure to be a part of our Chamber for the past five years, four of which as your President. Thank you for your support! As you know, we are the only Chamber operating in the unincorporated areas of Orange County and we do so completely independently, without the support of a city (because we are not one).
The last 24 months have been a wild wide to say the least with and the COVID-19 virus and a global pandemic. Every single business was forced adapt. Our Chamber was no exception. But business is the backbone of our respective communities. Our businesses make our communities some of the best to live on the planet because they make it convenient for our residents to shop, work out and receive services. They provide jobs and their tax revenue is used to keep our areas functioning as they should and looking tip top!
In many respects, our businesses are more: they are a place to gather, cultivate relationships and to have fun. They are a grounding element and the central hub of the community. They are the cement.
We continue to network back channels with our elected officials at the county, state and local level to keep them informed on the business climate and to encourage business-friendly policies whenever possible. Throughout the pandemic, we were hyper focused in helping our member businesses know about all of the available programming and to help them apply for and get their unfair share of that funding. We successfully advocated for more than $400k that flowed directly to Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo businesses from the County of Orange. The amount was more than many cities received directly from the Cares Act.
I want to take this opportunity to remind you that we are all in this together. The pandemic illustrated that perfectly. So did the housing-market crash of 2008. “A rising tide raises all ships.” To that end, I want to encourage each of you to help each other whenever the opportunity arises. We are a business community, a community of partners and friends, not a business island.
We are stronger than we have ever been, but we can be stronger! How many other business owners do you know and know well? One of my goals in 2022 is to encourage greater collaboration between our member businesses. There are signs of this all over the place and I love it!
Another of my goals is to make sure our unincorporated communities are not disadvantaged in any way in comparison to our surrounding formal neighboring cities. We did not choose the governance structure here and will continue to work with the county and the state to develop a more participatory path for our areas into the future, one that ensures political representation and a fair return of our tax dollars. Many areas receive economic development funding and we do not. We will continue to work on the maintenance and upgrading of our infrastructure, most visible to you in street maintenance.
One of our big projects this year will be to return a State of the Community). We have not held a State of the Community since 2018 and this year is a perfect opportunity to do so. The purpose of this gathering is to assemble the four legs of Ladera Ranch (LARMAC, LARCS, the Civic Council and the Chamber) and the 5th District to summarize the recent past, to look to the future and to connect the community at a single gathering.
Many of you have told us how hard it is for you to step outside of your businesses and participate at our in-person events and mixers. This year, we plan to do one a quarter and hope that you will indulge us with your participation at those fun, collaborative events. This is your chance to meet your peers and our Board and to share best practices and grow partnerships.
As most of you have done, we realized the power of social media in 2021 and the way it can be used to communicate directly with our residents. We plan to continue using it vigorously and are happy to share your news when you would like us to. We strongly encourage you to utilize the various platforms that make the most sense, grow your following and be consistent in your communication.
Despite the pandemic, we cut the ribbons of many new businesses last year and will do so again in 2022. The most notable new businesses are opening soon with Board & Brew on January 27th and Rancho Capistrano Winery by the end of the month. If you have an idea for a new business here, we want to help! Contact us and we will tell you what to expect.
Last year was the best in our history for membership. Some Chambers’ saw their membership halved during the pandemic; we reached new highs. We want to help all businesses but do not have the resources to do so. We are a membership-based non-profit and only help our members. That’s easy to remedy; all you have to do is join! Be a part of the Ladera Rancho TEAM!
Wishing you a successful 2022 and calmer waters!
- Todd Stearns, President/CEO