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Business Resources: Q&A with Jacquie Warren

jacquie-warren.jpgJacquie Warren is the president and CEO of the Irvine (Calif.) Chamber of Commerce. On January 29, the Chamber, together with the University of California, Irvine Paul Merage School of Business, presented the 2009 Business Outlook, an economic forecast for Orange County that has relevance for the rest of the country. Here, Warren discusses the event and resources offered to local business owners.

Entrepreneur: How is the Irvine Chamber managing the changes that have come up during the recession?
Warren: One of the good things about having a smaller organization is that you can change on a dime and try and give people what they need. We survey our membership on a fairly regular basis to find out where they are and what they want.

Based on the responses, what are ways the Chamber is supporting its members?
One of the recent things we've noticed is ... [when] people start losing their jobs, they start their own companies as consultants. So we're trying to do more networking opportunities and give more support in terms of [providing] opportunities to talk to other business owners.

We have over 1,000 member companies representing about 65,000 employees, and when we need speakers on any given topic, we ask members who are experts in the field. We recently did a program on "Right-sizing Your Business." We're doing one this spring on purchasing. It was extremely popular in the past, and I think it will be even more so in a down economy because people are looking for more and more business.

What feedback do you get from these events?
Well, the way we can judge is by the number of people who attend, and attendance has grown at events.

This Thursday [January 29], the Chamber is partnering with UC Irvine to present Business Outlook 2009, providing "Strategic Tools for Today's Economy." What are some advantages to attending?
I think [attendees] will gain more this year than another year when things are going really well. Business people want to know what to plan, what to expect, and it's important to hear what economists think about the economy.

Can you tell me more about the speakers?
All three speakers are experts in their respective fields. Emile Haddad is the chief investment officer at Lennar [Corp.], and he will give us his perspective on real estate, which is a topic many people are interested in. Rick Keller is CEO of The Keller Group Investment Management, and he's renowned locally and nationally ... for providing good investment information.

And of course, Andrew Policano, dean of UCI's business school, is a speaker on the panel who's recognized on a national and international level.

At last year's [Business Outlook], his remarks indicated we were heading down this path. He didn't expect it to be quite so bad as it's become, but when he came back to our board meeting in October [2008] for an update, he used his PowerPoint from before.

That definitely puts him ahead of the curve, then.
It does. Unfortunately, his information is accurate, but not what we want to hear. But Andy [Policano] really does give business people an opportunity to make plans and determine how they're going to shape their business plans for the next year.

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Business owners can take advantage of resources offered by their local chambers of commerce. If you're not already a member, consider joining or attending some events.

Jennifer Wang is a staff writer at Entrepreneur magazine in Southern California.
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