This new year promises to be good for Lincoln businesses

By: Paul Apfel Inside Lincoln Correspondent
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Amid reports of increased consumer confidence and spending in the latter days of 2011, the Lincoln business community is sounding upbeat and optimistic about their prospects in 2012. In an effort to get a better sense of the business environment in 2012, I spent a few minutes with incoming Mayor Spencer Short to discuss his views and plans regarding the upcoming business climate. I also selected a few of the business owners I interviewed in 2011 to get their sense of what to expect in the coming year. Mayor emphasizes economic development In a story carried in the Lincoln News Messenger on Dec. 8, Short pointed to economic development as being important for both sales tax and job creation. I asked him for more specifics regarding his views on how he plans to encourage economic expansion. Short pointed to business-to-business growth as a new focus, meaning he and other city staff will ask Lincoln business owners to actively promote Lincoln as a business site for the suppliers with whom they do business. The mayor pointed to some of the new businesses that have recently opened in Lincoln as evidence that business interest in Lincoln is growing. A quick look at new Lincoln storefronts reveals children’s clothing store Amazing Gracie at 668 5th St., fabric shop and sewing studio Sew Katie Jean at 603 5th St. and Lincoln Boulevard Home Consignments at 531 G St., the former home of Lincoln Florist and Gifts, who relocated up the street to a larger store at 509 G St. New stores and diversity New stores planned but not yet open include the Fresh and Easy grocery store currently under construction in the Sterling Pointe shopping center next to Lowes and the Walmart planned for the old Rainbow Market’s G Street location. News about Walmart’s plans and timing has been scarce, although a report from Lincoln’s Area Chamber of Commerce shows Walmart joining the chamber in July 2011 in the grocery class, thus giving a hint as to the large chain’s intentions. Cool Hand Luke’s Steakhouse/Saloon, a western-theme restaurant, will move into the former Beerman Restaurant site at 645 5th St. in February, according to earlier News Messenger reports. However, Short was unable to provide any new information regarding progress in meeting that timetable. Lincoln residents John and Mike Drust received an ABC license in October 2011 to serve wine, beer and liquor at the restaurant. Short also noted that he will be looking to diversify Lincoln’s business base by encouraging better use of warehouse space at the Lincoln airport where aircraft maintenance and sales would be a natural fit. Lincoln’s business community growing According the city of Lincoln’s Department of Finance, as of Nov. 10, 2011, Lincoln had 1,873 active business licenses, of which approximately 446 or slightly under 24 percent were newly issued in 2011. A department representative said another 20 to 25 licenses may have been issued since November to round out the year. Lincoln’s business owners are positive I asked a few of the business owners I interviewed in 2011 for their outlook for 2012. Book Cellar owner Debby Swindlar finds business opportunities in 2012 “exciting”. From her perspective at the gateway to downtown Lincoln - her shop is at 168 G St. - she sees “change starting to take place in Lincoln” as several new arrivals are becoming clients. Placer Pond and Water Garden owners Debra and Gary Sanford at 150 G St. are optimistic for 2012 as they look for space to expand their store. According to co-owner Gary Sanford, 2012 will be a time for his company to “rededicate our services to our community.” Providing maintenance servicing to customers in the Sun City Lincoln Hills subdivision has been a business mainstay according to Sanford, but in 2012, they will look to expand their services to the numerous farms and ranches that dot the Lincoln landscape. Most have ponds used for agriculture and thus require maintenance. Sanford wants to fill that need. They’ll also be building some new ponds as they now have a California State contractor’s license allowing them to do so. A beaming Marcus DeSalles, manager of the Safeway store in the Lincoln Hills Towne Center, told me “the 2012 outlook is positive” as he rushed to handle the holiday flow of customers. Gonzalo Alejandre, co-owner of Panaderia La Michoacana at 616 5th St. in downtown Lincoln, echoed similar sentiments in the midst of his holiday customer rush. Notes of Caution But not every business owner sees 2012 in a positive light. Polly Brown, co-owner of PJ’s Mail & Parcel Service, saw her holiday customer traffic in 2011 at about the same level as in 2010. “I’m hoping for a better year,” she said, but then went on to describe how her customers’ increasing Internet usage is threatening business growth. She pointed to some of the well publicized financial problems the US Postal Service is having to underscore her point. Notes of promise Lincoln entrepreneur Mina Reid began 2011 with two beauty salons and a coffee shop. She has since closed the coffee house and one salon. She remains upbeat, however, about her remaining salon at 1500 Del Webb Blvd. in Lincoln Hills which she says is doing well. Reid also said she is excited about 2012 and is anticipating a good year. When asked to summarize her thoughts on her business career’s roller coaster ride over the past several months, Reid said, “I am not afraid of tomorrow for I have seen yesterday and I love today.” Reid’s optimistic summary seems to apply generally to most the correspondents with whom we visited.