October 24, 2005 Program Summary
by Lael White & Adele Sommers

Industry Night on the Central Coast

Speaker Michael ManchakOur fall kickoff event “scanned the horizon” and provided invaluable insights from three local speakers on the latest developments pertaining to programs and organizations supporting local industry and technology on the Central Coast.

Our panelists included Michael Manchak, President and CEO of the Economic Vitality Corporation (EVC), Lee Ferrero, President and CEO of the Private Industry Council (PIC), and Bob Dumouchel, Communications Director for Your People Professionals (YPP). (Please see additional speaker details at bottom.)

Specifically, we wanted to know about emerging business trends, potential resources available through our speakers' organizations, and the paths that led each speaker to where he is today. To gain a better understanding of where San Luis Obispo’s business community is heading, and where our place might be within it, we asked our speakers to address a few particular questions in their presentation to us.

Speaker Lee Ferrero1. How did you come to join your organization?

Michael (EVC): Michael’s background began in banking at Chase Manhattan where his work involved financing the construction of master-planned communities and commercial buildings throughout southern California. He then became a principal in two companies for business development and commercializing technologies. His later work with Cal Poly for the California Central Coast Research Partnership (C3RP) facilitated technology transfer, business development and progressing the proposed technology park.

Bob (YPP): Bob’s first relationship with Your People Professionals began as a client, which spanned a five-year period. As the President of On With Learning Inc., Bob used YPP services because they simplified and improved his operations, and allowed him to focus on the core of his business. He then spent five months working for YPP as a consultant before becoming the Communications Director of the company. His extensive business training and advising background made him a natural fit for his present role. Currently, an important feature of his relationship with YPP is that it allows Bob to maintain his entrepreneurial interests, which include On With Learning and Arroyo Arts in Grover Beach.

Speaker Bob DumouchelLee (PIC): Lee began as an Art major, ran track and field in college, and then decided to switch his focus at some point to Parks & Recreation. He also joined the Air Force and served in the Vietnam War, but after the war was unable to find a job. With a family of three on food stamps, he was finally offered a position within a “doomed” company in Fresno, and this uncertain work happened to involve helping people get jobs. He was later hired into another position that was “about to end” — at the San Luis Obispo PIC — yet many years later, he and his work are still alive and astonishingly well!

2. In what ways does your organization work with community businesses?

Michael (EVC): The Economic Vitality Corporation offers resources for starting and expanding businesses in the County. It is a countywide conduit for helping companies of all sizes, and increases the level of employment opportunities. The EVC serves the business community by assisting companies and attracting new ones appropriate for the County. The EVC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization sponsored by the County, seven cities, companies, and individuals.

The EVC encourages local economic development through resources such as its loan programs, site selection services, workshops (including getting an SBA loan, ADA Scanning the horizoncompliance, international trade, and more), and a unique program that provides networking resources for trailing spouses. The EVC is also involved with business advocacy. Future programs will provide more resource such as helping businesses purchase from federal and state agencies, including Vandenberg Air Force Base, as an example. The EVC also aims to launch a venture capital/angel investor program to help local businesses.

Bob (YPP): Your People Professionals is a turnkey operation that serves as a ‘co-employer’ to other companies by taking care of all of the Human Resource functions for those companies. It currently has a client base of over 100 work sites (with about 1,000 employees total). YPP handles employee benefits such as 401Ks and health insurance, and also conducts the recruiting and assessment of potential employees for their clients. Each of YPP's client companies manages its own workplace safety, wage issues, and final hiring and firing. The business of YPP is not only extremely innovative and successful, but also serves an important need for companies within our community struggling with the ever-increasing legal and technical knowledge needed to perform these duties well.

Lee (PIC): The Private Industry Council has its roots in the Depression era when the government aided citizens with finding employment (e.g., working in the soup lines), which also provided more spending money to boost the economy. The national network of PICs consists of private, nonprofit organizations funded through the federal government. They continue to serve a valuable function by 1) finding employers for trainees and workers, 2) finding workers for employers, and 3) matching skills and personalities. Of the 600 PICs nationwide, only two are older than the San Luis Obispo organization. The PIC mainly works with three categories of workers:

1. Adults who are out of work because they lack skills
2. Adults who are laid off, but well-skilled and trained
3. Youth between the ages of 14-21 who are struggling; many are in trouble, most are extremely bright, and about 75% are from continuation schools.

3. Where are the business and technology sectors on the Central Coast heading?

Relationship-building can be the key to creating and maintaining career opportunities in any market.

— Michael Manchak, Economic Vitality Corp.

Michael (EVC): Michael believes that there are many successful businesses throughout the Central Coast, some that survived the tech bust. Some have left the area due to downsizing, buyouts, and the cost of housing. The EVC helps businesses deal with attracting and retaining employees through its Trailing Spouse Jobs Network, in a community that continues to experience chronic underemployment.

The high quality of life on the Central Coast has become an increasingly important asset in wooing people and businesses, despite the high cost of living. A surprising number of high-tech companies quietly exist here. Veritas, Adobe, and Sun Microsystems all have offices in San Luis Obispo, and perhaps others like them will open small offices in the area.

Bob (YPP): Bob disagrees with the common notion that there is a great discrepancy in wages here compared to other areas. He believes that the rules governing the technical sector are in the process of stabilizing. One challenge that technology companies and service providers face, however, is constant competition from offshore companies except in professional arenas that require:

  • Strong personal relationships, such as for requirements gathering
  • On-site participation, such as for conducting training or usability studies
  • Innovation, as in creating original information, products, or services

Where is the business sector heading on the Central Coast? There is some labor shortage. There is even more skill shortage.

— Lee Ferrero, Private Industry Council

Lee (PIC): Lee believes that the technical arena still represents a hot market and that replacements also will be needed for employees who are retiring. He recognizes that salary levels don’t always match the cost of living here; one indication includes the living arrangements that one didn’t find here 20-30 years ago.

Lee provided a detailed handout that cites 25 key locational factors influencing the attractiveness of an area. These factors include manufacturing and clerical wage levels, utility and real estate costs, transportation services, shopping facilities, labor quality and availability, and a variety of other considerations. Our county can use this type of “report card” to gauge its ability to attract and retain new businesses and potential employees.

4. What types of services and products should technical communicators and creative content developers plan to offer to the local business and technology sectors?

Michael (EVC): Michael suggests building relationships and gaining exposure in many ways. Connecting as an individual with the right company — even on a volunteer basis — may serve to provide you with the right exposure. For example, when Softec (the Central Coast Software and Technology Association) sought a local writer to develop a newsletter, a volunteer writer received publicity when the article was published in the newspaper. This example underscores the benefits of making and building relationships — the basis for most business conducted.

Skill sets that involve personal relationships are 'domestic' skill sets. Skill sets that don't involve personal relationships easily can be outsourced to another country.

— Bob Dumouchel, Your People Professionals

Bob (YPP): Bob recommends that we take a hard look at the skills in which we specialize. He suggests that if our skills have become commodities — because many other intelligent people can do them as well as we can — we may want to reevaluate our skill sets or pursue other fields. Or, we might aim to develop enticing value propositions through unique talents that we possess. Otherwise, he warns: “You’re toast!”

Bob advised that if we work toward developing value-added services and creative solutions, we'll succeed better in a global economy because we will be inventing rather than merely maintaining things. He cautions, “We need to keep reinventing ourselves, or we risk becoming commodities!”

Lee (PIC): Lee reminded us that the aging population (i.e., retiring baby boomers) will create more of an impact on our community in the very near future. As our demographic composition shifts, so might our expectations for how we can serve our community professionally.

He highlighted the value of organizations working together, and provided a real-life example of this type of symbiotic relationship: The PIC is a job-training industry, and the EVC is a job-building industry (and both organizations are located in the same building). A more specific example: the results of a PIC survey surfaced the trailing spouse issue as being a problem for businesses relocating to a new area, and the EVC successfully created a program to deal with that issue. As professionals, we might derive similar ideas for partnering with each other or with community groups.

As far as advice for youth in particular, Lee feels strongly that computer skills are essential and that both verbal and written communication skills (along with logic and reasoning) should be very developed in order to express oneself clearly and persuasively. Perhaps above all (and we could all use this reminder), have what it takes to be able to “keep on learning”!

5. Do you see a trend toward more telecommuting opportunities for technical communicators on the Central Coast?

Michael (EVC): Michael believes that growth of the Internet sector and telecommuting represents a growing trend in the future. This enables business in an area like SLO County complete globally — many successful companies on the Central Coast do so. Michael provided us with a positive note in that he is "bullish" for the future of our area!

Bob (YPP): Telecommuting has its pros and cons: jobs or projects that require a lot of personal communication and understanding should remain here, but functions that do not require much communication are severely at risk for being relocated to other countries, such as India. Telecommuting jobs that survive here will have one attribute in common, and that is ‘the human element’ — which entails developing strong relationships with clients that can be nurtured over time. One challenge that will always exist for telecommuters, however, is having a client wanting to meet face to face on short notice.

Lee (PIC): In our new world of work, we are seeing greater use of temporary workers who already possess credentials in a variety of skills (instead of expecting to be trained on the job). As we know, workplaces are downsizing and depending more heavily on work groups and virtual corporations to stay afloat in a rapidly changing, information-based, global economy.


Our speakers' views converged on several key points, including the following:

  • Developing strong relationships with clients and employers can help ensure an ongoing flow of work for service providers, whether onsite or via telecommuting.

  • Innovating a value-added product or service can help us keep our skill sets local. Professional activities that involve strong personal communication skills are the most likely to remain close to home. Skills that others easily can perform in isolation are the first to be outsourced overseas.

  • Our community needs a larger work force, but even more, the right skills to fit the local business picture. Some of the greatest challenges we face include attracting compatible businesses to the area, matching local or relocating qualified employees, and finding employment for trailing spouses.
Photographs provided by the speakers.
Industry Night on the Central Coast
Date: Monday evening, October 24, 2005

Michael Manchak, newly appointed President and CEO of the SLO Economic Vitality Corporation (EVC). The EVC offers county services that include Business Attraction and Creation, Site Location, Business Retention & Expansion, Rapid Response Business Assistance Programs, Financial Services, and a Trailing Spouse Job Network. Michael served as the project manager for Cal Poly's California Central Coast Research Partnership (C3RP). Prior to that he was Vice President of Business Development at ATW; Managing Partner of Terranalysis Corporation; and Construction Finance Analyst for Chase Manhattan Corporation. He has a business degree from the University of Southern California and is on the Board of Directors of Softec (the Central Coast Software & Technology Association); Workforce Investment Board of San Luis Obispo County; Community Advisory Council for the Cal Poly Orfalea College of Business; CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children); Paso Robles Economic Task Force; Economic Advisory Committee for the County of San Luis Obispo; and the California Space Authority.

Bob Dumouchel, Your People Professionals' (YPP) Communications Director, who brings over 27 years of experience as an executive and entrepreneur. YPP is a human resources services firm based in Santa Maria with offices in San Luis Obispo, Redding, and San Francisco. Bob founded and served as the CEO for a company selected by Inc Magazine as one of the fastest growing privately held companies in the US in 1993 and 1994. He also founded and served as the CEO for an organizational training business providing professional training solutions to thousands of organizations for computer software and business skill development. Bob also serves on the Softec Board of Directors, and is a Curriculum Committee Member for Web Development Technologies at Cuesta College, and Mentor to the Arroyo Grande High School Eagle Robotics Team.

Lee Ferrero, who has served as President and CEO of the Private Industry Council (PIC) of San Luis Obispo County since 1987. With offices in San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, and Arroyo Grande, the PIC recently celebrated its 25th year in the community. The organization acts as a training resource for local workers and healthy businesses that have workforce skill shortages, functioning as a "broker" between employers who are seeking workers and local citizens seeking training and jobs. Lee is a long-time county resident as well as a member of the Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo, Past Chair of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Past Chair of the Creative Mediation Services (CMS), and a member of the Cal Poly Business School Advisory Council.


“Industry Night on the Central Coast” brought us up to date on the latest developments pertaining to the programs and organizations that continue to support local industry and technology on the Central Coast. We took the pulse of our local business infrastructure, learned the status of new and emerging forces, took note of changes looming on the horizon, and looked carefully at the shifting sands within our community.


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