Business climate in Gardena is heating up

A listing in the Gardena Valley News during the height of the COVID pandemic shows residents that businesses were still working hard to stay open through the lockdowns.

Coming off the year of the pandemic in 2020, the business climate in 2021 seems rosey despite the surging Delta variant. 

Besides the recent Mom’s Touch opening at the corner of Normandie Avenue and Redondo Beach Boulevard, some new businesses that have opened or will do so by year’s end are Raising Canes, plus residential developments: Walnut Place by G3, Gardena Place by G3 and a new luxury complex by Blackwood, according to Spencer Dela Cruz, Economic Development Manager for the city of Gardena.

Dela Cruz said that early in last year’s COVID-19 process, businesses suspended much activity due to uncertainty. 

“Businesses held back on expansion, capital expenditures, laid off portions of their workforce and placed a freeze on hiring,” Dela Cruz said in a recent email exchange.”

He added that the down time of 2020 gave many companies an opportunity to refocus attention on their core business and to streamline operations.

Sectors of the business community responded differently to the pandemic mandates, Dela Cruz said. He noted that some companies adjusted their operations to meet the pandemic challenges, such as focusing on making PPE supplies.

That shift in production was not only necessary, but could be profitable.

“Chemical Guys for example started producing hand sanitizer, soap, and cleaning solutions,” Dela Cruz said. “Way out West started producing PPE (personal protective equipment), like facemasks, and JPI started producing facemasks.”

Other industries, he noted, were less successful in coping with the pandemic mandates.

“Restaurants, service, and hospitality uses were hit the hardest because they couldn’t diversify as well and were kept closed or limited operations because of the state or [LA] County restrictions,” Dela Cruz said.

Businesses located on main thoroughfares, such as Artesia and Redondo Beach boulevards have seen strong retailer growth, he said.

“These are the city’s strongest hubs for retail because of the easy access, strong traffic counts, and density,” Dela Cruz said. 

He added that the South Bay remains a hub for aerospace and advanced technical manufacturing, and that Gardena continues to “see large companies look for space in our industrial areas to the north.”

The Rosecrans Corridor has seen “tremendous” attention from residential developers, particularly G3 Urban and KB Home, Dela Cruz said.

“The new homes developed along Rosecrans bring more residents, which in turn bring in a higher amount of discretionary income to the immediate area,” he said. 

With the surge of residential homes, Dela Cruz believes the city will see a new level of interest from retailers looking to establish business in the Rosecrans Corridors.

An example of growth potential in this area can be seen in the revitalized Lucky Lady Casino near Vermont Avenue.

“The Lucky Lady Casino is in negotiations with a hotel developer for a pad site adjacent to the Casino,” Dela Cruz said. “We hope to see this project come to fruition in the next 18 to 24 months.”

The city of Gardena has long been a hub for restaurants and growth in new eateries will continue, Dela Cruz said. 

“Gardena has always been known as a foodie town,” he said. “And we will continue to strengthen that position as more restaurants choose Gardena first. Moms Touch, a subsidiary of Waba Grill (a fast-riser in the restaurant industry since 2006) noted Gardena’s strong retail demographics and market as a key reason why they chose Gardena as its first USA location.” 

Dela Cruz added that the Gardena City Council has approved revised hotel development standards to assist in attracting hotels.

“We hope to add more hospitality uses that add to the quality of life for our residents and businesses,” he said.

The year of the pandemic did fuel the trend toward “cold storage and last-mile distributions centers,” which Dela Cruz said is the talk of the town.

“Traditional retail sales have consistently been on a downtrend since the start of the internet and the rise of retailers like Amazon,” he said. “However, the pandemic further instilled e-commerce buying habits. Consumers ended up turning to ecommerce to have new items delivered like groceries, home goods, prescriptions, etc. It is expected that this trend will continue in the coming years and nearby distribution centers, cold-storage facilities, will need to be built to accommodate this growing trend.”

To thrive in a world of changing commerce and trends, Dela Cruz said that it would require the need to adapt and embrace technology. Especially true for small businesses, such as restaurants, to survive.

“They felt the need to get on social media to engage the market as well as turning to delivery services is really what helped carry them through the pandemic,” he said.

Dela Cruz said that city leaders remain committed to hosting events — such as the recent PPE event last month to assist small businesses with supplies.

“I work daily with businesses who need support, whether that is financial support with loans, grants, or putting them in contact with my partners at the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), or California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC),” he said.

As the Gardena continues its path to business growth and development, Dela Cruz said that the city’s prime attraction to prospective companies is “location, location, locations.”

“Our easy access to the Los Angeles Freeway system, close proximity to the ports of LA and Long Beach, and our strong manufacturing, especially for aerospace and defense businesses [can’t be beat],” he said.

With the pandemic seemingly under control thanks to the vaccines, Dela Cruz finds himself meeting with new clients on a regular basis.

“We are working on completely renewing all of our marketing material and have meetings scheduled with several retailers, companies, that we hope add to the quality of life for our residents,” he said.