For 30 years, Randy Moberg was an employee of Fortune 100 companies, working mostly in the operations and logistics areas. After a career change, Moberg is now the chief operating officer of L/B/W Insurance and Financial Services, a Santa Clarita company with origins back to 1922. Now having the time to become active in community organizations, Moberg has worked his way up to chairman of the Valley Industrial Association (VIA), an organization promoting business development, education and advocacy in the greater Santa Clarita Valley.
The Business Journal sat down with Moberg recently to discuss the group's goals for this year and his views of the general economic outlook of the area.
Question: How did you get involved in VIA?
Answer: I've lived in Santa Clarita for over 20 years. A good friend of mine had been involved in VIA. He told me to get involved in it when my company moved up here from the San Fernando Valley. The organization's been around for over 25 years and it's a true business-to-business organization. That's why I like it. Middle market businesses are exactly our business's target market and that's where VIA is focused.
Q: Why did you decide to take a leadership role in the organization?
A: Most organizations I get involved with seem to take that track. If you care, the track is there for you. I joined as a regular VIA member. A position came open on the board and I was asked to take it. From there I got involved in the education committee. Education, especially business-related education, is extremely important. Young people graduate with honors but they have no clue how to function in the business world. They don't know how to do a resume, work on a team or interact with others. VIA, with its Connecting to Success program, has been at the forefront on this issue. I ended up being the vice chair of education. When the VIA chairmanship opened up I was asked to take that position.
Q: How many members does VIA have?
Q: What do you personally bring to the table for VIA?
A: I have a very, very broad range of background. I worked for multinational corporations. I have a finance background and a background in marketing and operations. I can sit across the table from any business owner and discuss their business on their level. It really helps to relate to the person sitting across the table from you.
Q: What's your No. 1 goal as chairman this year?
A: To focus in this roller coaster economy on only that which brings value to members. If we can give them marketing, if we can help them politically, if we can give them better employees through our education effort, if we can give them networking opportunities; anything that brings value to the membership, that's all we're gong to do and nothing but that.
Now is not the time to add new programs. If you try to do too many things, chances are you won't do any of them well. We're going to focus on our top three things spelled out in our logo: information, education, advocacy.
Q: What does VIA offer that other business organizations don't offer?
A: We're often asked, what's the difference between VIA and the chamber of commerce? I think the difference is that we really focus on business to business the mid-size and the larger businesses. The chamber is more business to consumer and they do an excellent job.
What differentiates us is the education program specifically designed to provide business education for junior high and high school students just entering the work force. We are the catalyst behind the workforce housing mobility program. VIA has got everybody involved.
Live local and work local. Address the issue of people who work here who can't afford to live here. The politics goes without saying. Because we're not the largest, we're partnering with groups such as VICA to increase our political awareness both in Sacramento and locally.
Q: What's VIA's relationship with the chamber?
A: We're looking to see how we can work together to benefit both our memberships.
Q: What are the current challenges for VIA?
A: The challenges for VIA I think are the same as the challenges for any other organization. Right now companies are looking at their bottom line and are looking to cut back on anything that they feel they aren't getting their money's worth. That's why we need to look at our member value to make sure we are providing something for them to keep them as members.
Q: How is VIA doing financially?
A: We're doing OK. It's tight. It's tough out there. Our year goes from July to June. We'll have to see how companies are doing. Our membership dues are really not that expensive (running from $300-$1,200 depending on the size of the company.) It's just a matter of whether they think they are getting value for that money, then they'll stay.
Our advertising that we do on our web site and through other various blasts is designed to give maximum value. The SCV Jobs Online provides excellent candidates. The business luncheons that we have are by far the best business luncheons in this valley.
Q: What are the longer range goals of VIA?
A: Our long-term goal is to increase our presence and increase our brand awareness up here. We're tied together with the business community: when they improve we'll do well. We're going to add things but we're going to the membership and ask what they need. We'll see what the hot buttons are. In May we have a CEO forum. We haven't done one in awhile.
Q: What are the hot-button issues?
A: All companies are focused on three things: their clients, their employees and their profits. When we talk to businesses we need to find out what they have, what they need. What we don't know is what's going to happen to the future of California. With the budget deficit, we don't know what's going to happen. Is the state going to do something to keep business here? We'll also work with the city to bring in more business. But nobody's got a crystal ball. With the position we're in now, who knew that this was going to happen two years ago. We're not going to grow the organization just for the sake of growing it. We'll grow it in accordance with what our members need.
Q: What do you feel personally are the main challenges the City of Santa Clarita is facing?
A: The economic development team here is doing a good job. Their goal is to attract more medical and health care businesses, entertainment businesses. But we need a broader range of businesses.
There is now a Santa Clarita economic development group, not to replace what the city is doing but to support it in a broader scope bring in some manufacturing, bring in some R & D; to provide jobs to provide growth. The broader range you have the less likely a major shift in the economy will impact you.
Q: With the city of Los Angeles losing feature film production, it seems like there's a huge opportunity for the City of Santa Clarita to capture some of that.
A: Historically L.A. and especially the San Fernando Valley have had a lot of filming. But Santa Clarita is very business friendly. We have a lot of production, post-production studios, music. A lot of people aren't aware of it. There are a lot of people who live up here who commute to the Valley. (Getting more production) is one of the things the city is looking to do.
Q: What about other industry target areas?
A: The bioscience area. We already have several companies here because we have a great work force up here, highly educated, great schools.
Q: Are there any other topics you want to bring up?
A: We try really hard to get a feel for what our membership wants. If we're not doing what you want, please tell us. We'll address it and do whatever the membership wants. So if you get a survey from us, please spend two minutes and respond.
The other thing I want to say is, one thing I hear is that VIA and the chamber are at odds or competitors that couldn't be further from the truth. At the very best we're true partners, at the very worst we're friendly competitors. I would much rather partner for the good of both memberships than divide, because that's counterproductive.