Pacific Coast Business Times Proudly serving Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties 2015-03-06T21:15:39Z WordPress Staff Report <![CDATA[Amgen’s portfolio threatened as FDA paves path for lower-cost drugs]]> 2015-03-06T21:15:39Z 2015-03-06T21:15:39Z A scientist works in a lab at Thousand Oaks-based Amgen. (Courtesy photo)

A scientist works in a lab at Thousand Oaks-based Amgen. (Courtesy photo)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved its first-ever biosimilar, a drug known as Zarxio that mimics Amgen’s chemotherapy drug Neupogen, placing the Thousand Oaks-based biotech giant under peaked pressure to bring new treatments to market.

In contrast to the abundance of American consumers’ pill medication options, biologic drugs had until now been protected from competition. Zarxio, the first biopharmaceutical copycat approved in the U.S., was brought to market by Novartis’ generics unit, Sandoz, and will pave the way for lower-cost alternatives to existing treatments.

The FDA had previously preempted biosimilar competition while it decided how to treat reproductions of biologic drugs, which are produced from living cells or tissue and thus impossible to truly replicate.

Amgen’s Neupogen brought in $5.8 billion of the firm’s $18.1 billion in product sales for 2013, the year in which the company’s patent on it expired. Last year, it accounted for only $1.2 billion of that total.

Meanwhile, Amgen’s competitors are already seeking approval for alternatives to at least three other drugs in the company’s portfolio. Sandoz has submitted applications for knockoffs of Neulasta and Enbrel, while Lake Forest-based Hospira has applied for a biosimilar to Epogen.

Elijah Brumback <![CDATA[Westmont launches Center for Social Entrepreneurship downtown SB]]> 2015-03-06T20:19:00Z 2015-03-06T20:17:23Z Santa Barbara’s Christian liberal arts college is tapping into the downtown business community with a new program that focuses on entrepreneurship and social change.

Westmont College President Gayle Beebe announced the downtown campus at the annual Westmont President’s breakfast on March 6, saying he hopes the new Center For Social Entrepreneurship will become a place for students to learn and experience the downtown environment.

Westmont College recently took over the entire third floor at 26 W. Anapamu St., which also houses the Hutton Foundation, the Fund for Santa Barbara, Peritus Asset Management and the Community Environmental Council.

The program aims to immerse students in the city’s downtown and connect them with area mentors in the business community. Students from a wide range of majors are expected to take part in the program.

Rachel Winslow is the director of the new Center for Social Entrepreneurship and an assistant professor of history. The new program, which is under the umbrella of Westmont Downtown and also includes the college’s lecture series, centers on a 20 hour per week internship.

The inaugural fall 2015 class is being kept intentionally small — just nine students — to ensure that students’ goals and employers’ needs are aligned. The spring 2016 class will have a cap of 15 students.

“We’re looking for really good fits,” Winslow said. “It requires solid projects that students can work on and we’re not doing this in a haphazard way … we want students to leave the organizations better than they found them and putting that together just takes some time.”

At the breakfast, Beebe extended the invitation to some 600 business and community leaders to participate in the program’s outreach effort. “We want every junior and senior to have an internship experience,” he said.

Tom Parker, head of the Hutton Foundation said that his organization wanted to help the community take advantage of renewed interest in cities by millennials. “We gave Antioch a downtown campus and now Westmont,” he told the Business Times. “Urban environments are hot. They are a big draw for young professionals.”

The Hutton Foundation previously purchased the building at the corner of Anacapa and Cota Street and leased most of the building to create a new location for the South Coast’s Antioch University campus.

Students involved in the program will also live downtown. Winslow said the college will assist students in finding private market rental housing, with the intention of getting students off campus and into the neighborhood they’ll work in.

Erika Martin <![CDATA[Legendary family unwraps Creston film studio]]> 2015-03-06T18:59:24Z 2015-03-06T08:05:58Z Todd Fisher, CEO of Hollywood Motion Picture Experience, standing next to their camera equipment set up in Studio 32. (Nik Blaskovich / Business Times photo)

Todd Fisher, CEO of Hollywood Motion Picture Experience, standing next to their camera equipment set up in Studio 32. (Nik Blaskovich / Business Times photo)


At a studio tucked in among the dirt roads in San Luis Obispo County’s foothills, long-time Creston resident Todd Fisher is prepared to shake up feature film production by bringing the flair and craftsmanship of old Hollywood to a completely new setting.

Fisher has been building up one of the world’s most enviable caches of movie equipment at his 44-acre Freedom Ranch for more than 25 years, waiting for the right time to realize his dream. The journey will come to a head at the end of next month when Fisher’s Hollywood Motion Picture Experience, or HMPE as it is called, begins filming its first full-length feature, a $3 million budget coming-of-age story called “Emerald Bay.”  It will be the first movie to put Central Coast communities in the spotlight.

The son of “Singin’ in the Rain” star Debbie Reynolds and actor Eddie Fisher, and the brother of “Star Wars” actress Carrie Fisher, Todd grew up on movie sets. Though the rest of his family was drawn to the limelight, he was fascinated by the technical aspects of film and went on to hone his craft under cinematographer Harry Stradling and director-producer George Sidney, as well as producer Michael Todd, a family friend for whom he was named.

Most of Fisher’s camera and lighting inventory is the legacy of his previous project on the property, a 10,000-square-foot museum he  built as a museum for the $30 million archive of Tinsel Town memorabilia collected by his mother, Reynolds. But after multiple failed attempts, the family abandoned the museum initiative and auctioned off artifacts including Judy Garland’s ruby slippers and one of Charlie Chaplin’s bowler hats.

With high costs and congestion continuing to push productions away from Los Angeles, Fisher saw he had the resources to harness the Central Coast’s pastoral beauty and launch a studio. When lower costs of living and running a film business are considered, Fisher said, the Creston facilities cost 20 times less than they would in L.A.

Roy Wagner, the studio’s director of photography, said running a studio had been a dream of Fisher’s since he was a teenager.

“This is just the beginning of the culmination of his dreams,” Wagner said. “He’s more than a visionary. He really is an impresario, just like his mentors and parents.”

According to Wagner, Fisher’s upbringing endowed him with an eclectic skill set with expertise touching on just about every aspect of filmmaking.

“I’m a two-time Emmy Award winner, and he probably knows more about my job than I do,” Wagner said. “He grew up in the movie business. It would have been impossible for him not to learn.”

Fisher has recruited a cadre of like-minded artists as department heads, from Wagner, whose other accolades include making Kodak’s Top 100 Directors of Photography in the World list; to Dusty Ebsen, son of Buddy Ebsen, who is head of post-production; to Emmett Alston, a noted experimental film director who will serve as a producer. The endeavor will also be a family affair, with CEO Todd’s mother Debbie and sister Carrie signing on as producers and possibly starring in their first film together for “Emerald Bay.”

Fisher hopes the tight-knit group of professionals can develop an atmosphere that harkens back to classic Hollywood studios. Aside from the department heads, the remainder of the film’s production crew will be recruited from the Central Coast, and the main character’s love interest will be played by Matthew Evans, a student at Cuesta College who starred in “Bad Teacher” alongside Cameron Diaz.

Fisher kept much of the family’s cadre of rare and high-quality production equipment away from the auction blocks to endow HMPE with a wealth of resources.

“Most filmmakers that you see have to rent all of this,” he said. “I can have all this sitting around — whether I use them today, tomorrow, next week or not at all is irrelevant right now. But I have available the best tools to make the best product, and I own them all and I don’t have any debt.”

Some of his cameras and bases are the only ones of their kind under private ownership, and Fisher said many of these capture color and light with characteristics that can’t be recreated by anything on the market.

“If you’re trying to get a certain type of look, people are really starting to wise up to the fact that the old heads are better than the new heads,” Fisher said. “People say, ‘Oh, I can just make my movie on an iPhone,’ and I’m not saying you can’t do that, but there is a technique and advantages to having these great tools. You get great production value.”

Fisher keeps three legacy film cameras in his active inventory, as well as a collection of archaic lighting technology, such as a rare 10,000-watt Fresnel light originally used for pin-up glamour shots. He also has a Panavision camera used to film the original Star Wars that he sold a similar model of three years ago for $600,000, breaking value records for science fiction and camera memorabilia.

Associate Producer John Haas shows a custom built camera drone in Studio 32 at Hollywood Motion Picture Experience.

Associate Producer John Haas shows a custom built camera drone in Studio 32 at Hollywood Motion Picture Experience.

But Fisher places just as much importance on using new-school technology to create something fresh and imaginative. The studio’s sound department, for example, has the best equipment available on the market, Fisher said. “Nobody even has some of the things we have in the types of quantities we have it in, because my background is to do something right or don’t do it at all.”

The facilities allow clients to produce high-definition programs with microscopic overhead, and a handful of local companies who had been traveling out-of-state to produce videos will begin renting HPME’s green-screen stage for creating infomercials or clips in a mock talk-show environment. HPME has also been working to foster collaboration and innovation among SLO’s underground community of film professionals, forming cross-promotion partnerships with local companies like Really Right Stuff, which manufactures user-friendly camera equipment.

Next to the 6,000-square-foot sound stage is a 10,000-square-foot building that houses three editing bays; a recording studio; hair, makeup and wardrobe; a prop department; and meeting rooms and offices. The expansive property is scattered with structures designed for film sets and is anchored by Fisher’s 7,800-square-foot home that bustles with activity throughout the day.

The studio also has three drones for overhead shots, from consumer models equipped with GoPro-type cameras to a custom-built craft that can carry up to 30 pounds of equipment. And if clients’ work can’t be shot on the ranch, they can use a mobile studio unit capable of delivering high-definition video feeds in real time.

HMPE owns the rights to about 20 scripts, ranging in budget from $1 million to $15 million, but chose to debut with “Emerald Bay,” a story adapted from a book by Paula Kennedy about defying her high-class family’s expectations to become a veterinarian. Although originally set on the East Coast, Fisher convinced Kennedy to let him adapt the story for San Luis Obispo after introducing her to the region.

“It embraces the wine culture, embraces the San Luis Obispo culture and lifestyle we all have here, and why we all came here,” Fisher said.

Fisher said “Emerald Bay” is similar to “Sideways” in certain aspects, and he is conscious of the heavy influence the latter wielded over the Santa Ynez Valley’s wine culture. He said the team places special importance on selecting its vineyard partner and has enlisted Mike Mooney of Chateau Margene as wine consultant to help identify the vineyard that will best represent the region’s wine industry at large.

Equestrian scenes will be filmed at Templeton Horse Park, Fisher said, and the movie will showcase surrounding communities such as Morro Bay, Pismo Beach and Paso Robles “as much as we can.” Fisher is also orchestrating a number of pro-bono placements for local businesses in the movie but hopes an influx of tourism can be properly managed by city and county officials.
“Emerald Bay” focuses on the relationship between the lead character, a teenager, and a horse, which Fisher acknowledges “has been done thousands of times, but it is one of those things that always works.”

But to make it fresh, he wanted to endow the equestrian scenes with greater depth of feeling than horse actors are usually capable of delivering. After studying films like “National Velvet” and “The Black Stallion,” Fisher realized he could show viewers the world reflected through the mare’s eyes by shooting a scene as the horse would view it then transposing the footage into its eye.
Fisher said technology “really enhances the way the filmmaker can get into the mind of the horse, which otherwise wouldn’t be very easy. It is a little thing — it’s only used a dozen or so times in the movie — but it should be a very unique thing.”

Henry Dubroff <![CDATA[Isla Vista lawsuit claims red flags were ignored]]> 2015-03-06T19:00:02Z 2015-03-06T08:04:55Z About 4,000 people gathered on the UCSB campus last May to remember the victims of the bloody massacre in Isla Vista. (Erika Martin / Business Times photo)

About 4,000 people gathered on the UCSB campus last May to remember the victims of the bloody massacre in Isla Vista. (Erika Martin / Business Times photo)

A landlord’s duty to screen roommates and the welfare check conducted by Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department are at the heart of a lawsuit filed March 2 by families of the victims of Elliot Rodger’s deadly rampage in Isla Vista.

Two law firms representing families of three victims — two roommates and a visitor bludgeoned to death by Rodger at the Capri Apartments on the afternoon of May 23, 2014 — filed their civil suit in a Federal District Court in Los Angeles seeking unspecified damages.

The suit names as defendants the county of Santa Barbara; the Sheriff’s Department; Capri Apartments, where Rodger had lived; and Texas-based apartment management firm Asset Campus Housing. Asset Campus Housing declined to comment.

The causes of action include violations of due process and negligence and in the case of Capri Apartments and Asset Campus Housing, the case will likely revolve around whether Rodger’s behavior in the months before his rampage warranted a warning to prospective roommates.

Attorney Scott Campbell, managing partner of Rogers Sheffield & Campbell, said that the duty of the landlord or apartment manager is likely to face a “reasonable behavior standard.”

In other words, he said, if the case goes to trial the question likely before the jury is whether Rodger’s behavior was so erratic that it warranted some action by the landlord or apartment owner.

“The theory is that if you are aware there is a danger, it could be a liability,” he said. The analogy, he added, would be if an apartment owner knew security lights were out on a porch and didn’t do anything to replace them. Campbell is not involved in the case.

But negligence cases can be hard to prove, said Marcus Kocmur, a partner at Buynak, Fauver, Archbald & Spray in Santa Barbara. He cited one California case where a landlord was renting a mobile home to a gang member and the courts ruled that didn’t create liability when a gang fight later occurred, he said.

However, he added, because Asset Campus Housing is operating “a roommate matching service” it “creates a unique situation for this type of housing.” Kocmur, who also is not involved in the case said the outcome could “depend on disclaimers in the terms and conditions” of the rental agreement the roommates signed.

In their suit, plaintiff attorneys Becker Law Group and McNicholas & McNicholas allege that Rodger had a history of violence and prejudice against roommates and state he was moved several times in an effort to find a better match.

The lawsuit claims that the parents of David Wang, James Hong and George Chen should have been warned by Capri and Asset that Rodger represented a risk.

Roommates “Hong and Wang trusted that Capri had conducted a reasonable investigation into Rodger before assigning him as their roommate, and they trusted that he had been vetted as safe and appropriate,” the lawsuit states.

In a phone interview with the Business Times, plaintiff attorney Todd Becker said Rodger “was not fit to be a roommate of anybody.” He added that Rodger had “seven prior roommates and had disputes with all of them. The bottom line is that with a minimal amount of effort, the apartment complex and management company would have discovered he was unfit.”

The lawsuit also alleges officers who conducted the welfare check in April 2014 failed to contact the roommates or warn them that Rodger’s parents were concerned about his Web postings. The suit also alleges the officers failed to check gun ownership records to see if Rodger owned any guns.

The suit alleges the county and sheriff’s departments maintained a policy of “deliberate indifference” when conducting welfare checks. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department has said it won’t discuss the case but issued a statement expressing sympathy for the victims of the tragedy.

In the case of Rodger, family members requested the welfare check after they viewed disturbing and violent materials Rodger had posted on the Web.

The lawsuit was filed just one week after the Sheriff’s Department released its own report on the shootings that provided additional details about the welfare check, which involved a team of six personnel, including four deputies, a trainee and a UC Santa Barbara patrol officer.

The report also described a January 2014 dispute between Rodger and roommate Hong over the alleged theft of candles as well as the grisly murders of Wang, Hong and Chen, a visitor who happened by the apartment and was stabbed to death.

“One of our main issues is to fix the system,” Becker said. “This has happened in so many places around the country. We need changes in how things are done.”

Henry Dubroff <![CDATA[Dubroff: The Business Times celebrates 15 years with a Hall of Fame gala]]> 2015-03-06T19:14:18Z 2015-03-06T08:03:55Z ChampagneLogoWhen you look at the masthead of this issue of Pacific Coast Business Times, you will notice something new.

This is Volume 16 No. 1 and it is the beginning of our 15th anniversary year.

The special banner at the top of Page One signifies that for 780-plus consecutive weeks, we’ve been offering our subscribers an in-depth look at business and economic issues on the Central Coast.

During the past decade-and-a-half, we’ve helped the region develop an economic identity, providing a way to ride the economic waves through recession and recovery.

We’ve created by far the largest news operation for business and financial news between Los Angeles and the Bay Area. We’ve helped train a new generation of business journalists, and we’ve honored hundreds of companies and individuals through our highly successful awards programs.

This has not always been an easy task. I got a chuckle this week when the Nasdaq stock index briefly broke through the 5,000 barrier for the first time in 15 years — it has been a fascinating ride.

We’re going to celebrate our 15th Anniversary with a Gala Celebration at the Bacara Resort & Spa on May 14, and inaugurate five business luminaries into our Hall of Fame. To make it official, this year’s honorees are:

• Brooks Firestone, the pioneering entrepreneur who put Santa Barbara County’s wine industry on the map, sparking a revolution up and down the Central Coast. Along the way, he found time to serve as an assembly member and county supervisor.

• Angel Martinez, CEO of Deckers Outdoor Corp. and the person most responsible for transforming the South Coast into the Milan of America’s footwear business.

• Clint Pearce, the son-in-law of the late Alex Madonna and CEO of Madonna Enterprises. He has brought the Madonna family’s crown jewel, the Madonna Inn, into the 21st Century and restructured the family holdings to focus on real estate in San Luis Obispo County.

• Lynda Weinman, co-founder and executive chair at, the world’s biggest online training academy. Her company made news recently with a $186 million capital raise, furthering the distance between and its competitors.

• And finally, the late Alan Teague, longtime chairman of Limoneira Co., one of the world’s largest producers of lemons and avocados. Teague passed up a chance to succeed his late father in the U.S. House of Representatives in order to focus on the things he loved most: his family, the city of Santa Paula, Ventura County and his beloved Limoneira.

We launched the Business Hall of Fame five years ago in honor of our 10th anniversary. We’re delighted that these five will join our previous honorees, Oracle Corp. Vice Chairman Jeff Henley, Jordano’s President Peter Jordano, labor and workplace leader Hank Lacayo, Sage Publications’ co-founder Sara Miller McCune, consumer research pioneer J.D. “Dave” Power, retired banker Carrol Pruett, real estate and financial services entrepreneur Mike Towbes and the late Jack Gilbert and Martin V. Smith.

During our 15-year journey, we’ve been honored with a number of awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of American Business Editors & Writers, the Los Angeles Press Club and Editor & Publisher. Our entrepreneurial efforts have been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the South Coast Business & Technology Awards, CSU Channel Islands and many others.

Our successes would not be possible without the support of our readers, advertisers and sponsors. Thank you for helping us build the region’s dominant business and financial news organization.
Look for our Hall of Fame publication on April 24 and please join us at Bacara on May 14.

Erika Martin <![CDATA[Obamacare pushes Goleta firm to roll out new software]]> 2015-03-06T19:00:38Z 2015-03-06T08:02:05Z InTouch Health CEO Yulun Wang oversees the firm’s patient care dashboard that allows doctors to remotely monitor patient health. (Photo courtesy InTouch Health)

InTouch Health CEO Yulun Wang oversees the firm’s patient care dashboard that allows doctors to remotely monitor patient health. (Photo courtesy InTouch Health)

With hospitals being prodded by the Affordable Care Act to cut readmission rates, InTouch Health is adapting its telemedicine products to help doctors provide preventative at-home care without requiring its flagship robots to make house calls.

InTouch’s pioneering devices, now used in more than 1,200 hospitals, include a virtual medical assistant developed with iRobot Corp. that can autonomously navigate a hospital, mobilizing physicians via a virtual presence.

While the Goleta firm’s technology has spread access to care by removing geographic bars to medical services and allowing remote specialists to deliver emergency care to patients in rural communities, its impact has largely been limited to acute-care settings.

With the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ready to financially penalize facilities that fail to mitigate excess hospital readmission, InTouch’s clients began clamoring for solutions to expand care beyond hospital walls.

The company has responded by unchaining its software from the clinical hardware and scaling the communication technology down to facilitate preventative check-ins in a home-care setting via personal consumer electronics, including tablets and smartphones.

According to InTouch Health CEO Yulun Wang, the idea of remote care as an integral part of health services is grabbing hold in the marketplace due to the ACA-designed push for American hospitals to adopt a pay-for-value structure over their current pay-for-volume model.

“For the past many decades, it’s been that the more people who come in, the more things they do to those people, the more money they make,” Wang said, leaving the hospital no incentive to perform a good surgery since a bad one would earn the same amount.

In fact, a botched job could end up bringing in more money, since the patient would likely return with complications and require additional treatment. But with readmission fines rising and putting increasing pressure on bottom lines, providers are now scrambling to install earlier lines of defense.

“Through the ACA, this readmit penalty is approaching more and more and more service lines,” Wang said. “The hospital used to not care, economically, what the patient did when they discharged them from the hospital. If the patient got sick again, they’d just come back in. Now they have to care.”

For certain diseases such as congestive heart failure, the hospital foots 100 percent of the medical costs for an individual who is readmitted within 30 days of receiving in-patient treatment.

Privately-held InTouch, which took in its last round of venture capital in 2013, hopes its new software-only endpoint can foster doctor-patient interaction via its personal cloud to monitor discharged patients. It also could serve as a component of long-term home care.

“There’s no hardware that we have combined with it so that a health care provider can choose his own hardware, like a consumer device, put our software on it and then send that hardware home with a patient for further follow-up with the advantage of our cloud,” Wang said.

The company has also given doctors greater mobility to do their jobs with an iPhone interface that connects them to remote patients while on-the-go via InTouch’s secure cloud infrastructure.
As nations across the globe struggle to provide consistently high-quality care to all citizens while pushing down costs, Wang said telemedicine can solve a large piece of the puzzle.

“How do you take the advanced knowledge that we have now across all these different specialties, apply it to a population that has greater and greater need because it’s not only growing but it’s aging — how do you do that at a lower cost?” he said. “And I think that’s really what tele-health is all about: leveraging those precious resources across a wider population to ensure the right care is delivered in the right place at the right time.”

InTouch currently has about 200 employees around the country but is continually hiring to fuel expansion.

Although the firm remains at the forefront of the telemedicine industry and lacks any nagging competition, its products’ widespread adoption will be challenged by the significant work-flow changes required by the adoption of disruptive technology. Plus, hospitals will have to grapple with setting up a pricing structure and payment system for telehealth services.

Elijah Brumback <![CDATA[Cities weigh cost of hosting US cycling’s main attraction]]> 2015-03-06T19:01:01Z 2015-03-06T08:01:15Z Scores of cyclists will pedal their way through the Tri-Counties during the annual bike race, which begins May 10. (Photo courtesy Brian Hodes)

Scores of cyclists will pedal their way through the Tri-Counties during the annual bike race, which begins May 10. (Photo courtesy Brian Hodes)


The Amgen Tour of California is still two months away, but host cities are already getting their ducks in a row for the event, slated to kick off May 10.

One of the most prestigious races in U.S. cycling, the tour will pedal through a handful of tri-county cities. Local governments, tourism groups and businesses are looking forward to the boost the tour is anticipated to give to early spring revenues. But whether a city plays host to a stage start or finish makes a huge difference in the extent to which those involved can benefit.

After hosting the tour in previous years, cities including Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Escondido chose to bow out of the event’s bidding process when the return on investment was determined to be minimal, and in some cases a loss.

The 10th anniversary of this year’s 724-mile race, Amgen Tour of California will feature stages that pass through host cities Pismo Beach, Avila Beach and Santa Barbara — reprising their roles from tours past. The Ventura County portion of the route passes through Ojai and Santa Paula on its way to Santa Clarita. The competition is a big draw with cycling enthusiasts and tens of thousands of people are expected to roll into the event’s host cities, filling up hotels, cramming restaurants and pumping cash into the tourism economy. Balcom Canyon, just outside of Santa Paula, is one of the major climbs on the tour, and as many as 5,000 spectators are predicted to line that section of the course.

According to AEG, the Los Angeles-based owner and marketer of the tour, the event has an economic impact of roughly $100 million, and last year’s event created more than 4 billion impressions — a metric used by marketing firms to track exposure — worldwide through television, print, radio and online coverage.

NBC Sports is broadcasting the event is the U.S., while AEG also sells those broadcasting rights to a number of European and international companies. That’s a big sell for Central Coast cities like Pismo and Avila that are trying to find a broader niche in the travel and tourism market. For some, the exposure to European markets is well worth the cost to host. This year for Pismo and Avila, the cost is about $55,000 together.

Through the sponsorship deal, Pismo and Avila will have a 30 second TV spot on NBC, something the cities would have never been able to afford otherwise, said John Sorgenfrei, president and owner of TJA Advertising, the company hired to help promote the event.

“Our number one engine is tourism and we’re using the tour to try and promote overnight stays at area hotels,” Sorgenfrei said. “Most of our activities related to the tour are the night before they take off from Pismo.”

Area hoteliers expect to recoup the $35,000 Pismo is spending on hotel nights alone, he said.

“From our standpoint, we’re not really looking at just the short-term advantages and what that investment is,” said Adam Hill, 3rd District Supervisor for San Luis Obispo County. “We look at it this way: one, it’s great coverage for the area that get us on international TV, and the other is in talking to some of our hoteliers, this is exactly the kind of demographic we’re most interested in getting here — outdoor athletes and enthusiast.”

In marketing the area, Hill said a lot of what’s being done focuses on promoting outdoor assets such as trails, surf and other events like marathons and triathlons. The strategy works well in conjunction with the effort to attract people in light of the region’s wine boom, he said.

“In talking to folks at AEG that put on the tour, they love having great scenic images and we’re able to provide that,” Hill said. “Any time I’m approached about these kinds of events, I say let’s make it happen … Sports are a great way to showcase what we have here; plus, we’ve done it before and we know how to do it.”

An Iron Man competition could also be in the cards for the area as a few local partners are working on bringing the well-known triathlon brand to town.

This year Pismo Beach and Santa Barbara are Stage 4 and Stage 5 start locations, respectively. Avila Beach will host the only Tri-County stage finish, a much more lucrative proposition. But it will also take more effort to pull off. Starting-point organizers only have to worry about the cyclists and fans as they leave town. With a finish, teams, fans and everyone else is essentially invading the city and being prepared for that is a big effort, said Rachel Wagner, assistant to the city manager for Thousand Oaks.

“You’re creating a little host city village and basically a mini festival,” she said. “There are lots of logistics and months of planning.”
Thousand Oaks has hosted the tour four times, and most recently was the overall finish in 2014, though the city isn’t taking part this year. Expenses for the city totaled more than $200,000 in previous years, Wagner said.

For Santa Barbara’s part, the city is spending about $28,000, the bulk of which will go toward police overtime pay. Visit Santa Barbara, the tourism group, kicked in $5,000 to AEG as a host for the event. Both the city and Visit Santa Barbara are working with Medalist Sports, the event coordinators hired by AEG, to organize the event.

“While hosting both a start and finish — as Santa Barbara has in past years — results in a larger economic impact, being involved with [the tour] on any level always offers tremendous economic value and both domestic and international visibility,” Jaime Shaw, communications manager for Visit Santa Barbara said in a email to the Business Times. “[The tour] always provides a notable direct economic boost for the cities involved, including hotel room nights, restaurant and activity spending, and visits to local attractions.”

When Santa Barbara held the start and finish of a stage in May 2013, there were 800 hotel room nights resulting from the tour, which infused a minimum of $160,000 into the local lodging community, according to information from Visit Santa Barbara.

Neal Rogers, Velo News editor-at-large and a presenter for the Global Cycling Network, said speculatively that the tour costs roughly $7 million to produce. With Amgen the title sponsor chipping in an estimated $3 million, the rest is made up by additional sponsors and teams. However, according to those in the cycling community, the event has never been profitable and has actually operated at a loss for the last several years. Representatives for AEG did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

“In the U.S. it’s a major event, and in the grand scheme of the sport of road cycling, which is very European based, it’s still up there in terms of competition. And its in a marquee state, so it stands on its own for that,” Rogers said. “The fact that there are a lot of sponsors and bike industry players in California is also a big reason it gets a lot of attention.”

On a scale of one to 10, one being a local race and 10 being the Tour de France, Rogers said the Amgen tour is a seven or an eight.

The race also attracts a lot of cycling’s top talent. Last year’s winner Bradley Wiggins was the Tour de France Champion in 2012. Tejay van Garderen, one of American cycling’s stars, won the Amgen Tour in 2013 and more recently finished fifth in the 2014 Tour de France.

“The race has definitely found a niche within the sport of cycling,” Rogers said. “A lot of riders at the Tour of California are coming off of break and ramping up to the second part of season leading into the Tour de France.”

This year 18 international teams are expected to take part in the race, with tri-county host cities offering up some of the more interesting competitive landscapes on the tour.

The tour starts in Sacramento and will finish in Pasadena, with 43,000 feet of total elevation in between. Other host cities on the tour include Nevada City, Lodi, San Jose, Santa Clarita, Big Bear, Ontario, Mt. Baldy, and L.A.