By Brandon Matson for the Torrance Chamber of Commerce. Photos courtesy of the Torrance Chamber of Commerce.
The City of Torrance has partnered with the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce (TACC) to increase business outreach efforts moving into 2015. The effort includes a commitment from both City and Chamber leadership to conduct joint business visits on a bi-weekly basis. The Chamber and City conduct ongoing internal operations to engage, communicate with, and support local businesses, but the collaborative outreach is an added approach to current efforts. “The TACC has unified the voice of business for over 100 years in Torrance and continually seeks new and innovative ways to promote the interests of business with government. Partnering with our City to visit local businesses helps to build a positive relationship between local business and government and promotes a healthy line of communication,” says TACC President and CEO Donna Duperron.
Torrance Mayor Patrick Furey agrees that maintaining open communication between government and business is important, especially as businesses continually evolve and innovate. “Having an opportunity to visit with the various businesses – large and small - gives me an opportunity, as we go forward, to identify and to address policy changes that may have to be made to accommodate the needs of newer business models.
A recent visit by the City and Chamber to DocMagic, Inc., located in Old Torrance, demonstrated the innovative kinds of businesses located in Torrance. Capable of processing a document package comprised of over one hundred pages of legal text in 1.5 seconds, to include data and regulatory compliance validation, DocMagic does not just evolve document preparation but also the workplace itself. Throughout DocMagic’s beautiful facility lie small “breakout areas” populated with soft cushioned seats, bean bags, and foot rests where employees can take a small break from work or engage in thoughtful conversations about strategy and process improvement. “We feel creating an open atmosphere in the workplace elicits the kinds of thoughts and strategies that help our business continue to innovate and grow,” says Dominic Iannitti, President of DocMagic Inc.
A visit to the IT department further displayed the creative culture grown by Iannitti. “I walked into the IT department and didn’t see many desks; just open areas, modern couches, cushioned chairs, and beautiful windows,” said TACC Chairwoman Heidi Cunningham. DocMagic’s IT department does not have stringent assigned work areas, but rather available open seating. Iannitti says, “The open workplace helps foster creativity and encourages collaboration. It is also a setting that younger members of the workforce may be more accustomed to.”
Torrance is home to a diverse selection of private sector companies. The business visitation program, in addition to visiting established companies, hopes to promote unique Torrance businesses that the community may not be privy to. A visit to Sports Studio in East Torrance revealed a local business gem. Residing quietly off Western Avenue, Sports Studio has a warehouse that holds 135,000 authentic sports jerseys, 2,500 authentic football helmets, and 5,000 pairs of footwear. Possessing partnerships with the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Soccer (MLS), and U.S. Soccer, Sports Studio is hired by production companies to create authentic sports on camera.
Just this past year, this local Torrance business completed 1,300 production projects in various forms, including TV commercials, feature films, photo shoots, and live events. Notable projects included Draft Day featuring KevinCostner; 42, a film covering the life of Jackie Robinson, and current Derek Jeter commercials generated in conjunction with the New York Yankee superstar’s recent retirement.
Mark Koerster, Sports Studio’s CEO, has built an empire in the sports entertainment industry, as evidenced by the NFL requiring any production of their brand to be produced with Sports Studio’s services. “Any non-live NFL production you see on television or on screen, Sports Studio has provided the jerseys, helmets, footwear, you name it. We also choreographed the scripted sports scenes, meaning: for the non-live sports action, we have scripted the scene and ensured the action is as authentic as possible,” says Koerster.
Sports Studio moved from Culver City to Torrance in 2012, citing Torrance’s available building space, parking, freeway access, and friendly business climate as reasons for the move. Being relatively new to Torrance, Koerster appreciated the City and Chamber taking the time to visit his business and feels he now has a better understanding of local government and the local business community. “I didn’t realize how big Torrance was and how influential we are in local politics. I was excited to see that the Mayor and the City government is very pro business and to see that Torrance has a very active and progressive Chamber of Commerce to represent the interests of local business.”
Not all businesses may be eager to have their local government visit but so far the program has been well received. “The businesses we have visited seem to have been very receptive to our visits. They are proud to educate and inform about what they do. Their enthusiasm and passion for their businesses is infectious and helps to make the business visitations really exciting and energizing for us,” says Fran Fulton, Economic Development Manager for the City of Torrance. The receptiveness of the visits is what makes the City and Chamber’s partnered strategy effective. “Businesses can be weary of local government at times but that is where the Chamber can help mitigate any uneasiness on the side of business,” says Cunningham.
She adds, “It is important for businesses to interact with government so that our policy makers are well-informed of business concerns. As a Chamber, we strive to facilitate that open line of communication.” Cunningham also notes that it is important for businesses to be aware of local government services and resources available to them. “[The visits] make businesses aware of all the services both the City and Chamber offer as well as provide an opportunity for them to discuss any concerns or communicate growth opportunities. We become a resource for them to go to, especially when they are not sure what to do.”
As the visitation program continues into 2015, the City and Chamber are hopeful that the joint visits will be an effective form of business outreach. “I hope that we get to the point where businesses are requesting that we go out to visit with them,” says Fulton.