February 5, 2023
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Port grant, trade pact boon for Central Coast


International commerce on the Central Coast got a boost from a pair of announcements last week.

On Oct. 26, the Department of Transportation awarded $12.3 million to the Port of Hueneme for upgrades and modernization that includes dredging the harbor to accommodate larger ships.

Also in the mix is improved transportation infrastructure, particularly for hauling goods by rail.

On Oct. 27, The Business Times visited by phone with Commerce Department Undersecretary Stefan Selig, who spotlighted a number of new initiatives under the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership. Among them:

• Vastly reduced tariffs for the export of U.S. vehicles to Malaysia and Vietnam and a reduction to the “formidable set of barriers” that automakers face in exporting to Japan. This could finally begin to level the balance between the massive imports of vehicles to the Port of Hueneme as compared to relatively few, though increasing, exports.

• A reduction in agricultural export tariffs to Japan and other Asian nations, particularly when it comes to fruit and citrus. More than 20 percent of U.S. farm output is exported, with Asia being the largest export area. Increased agribusiness exports will open new markets for citrus, berries and avocados along with our world-class wines, craft beers and spirits.

• An outreach effort to attract more foreign investment in the region, particularly Ventura County, in areas such as food processing, technology and aerospace. FDI can be a big deal — in the case of Santa Maria, more than 1,000 people are employed by Zodiac, a French supplier of advanced lie-flat seats for commercial aircraft.

“The U.S. aerospace sector produces our country’s largest manufacturing surplus. It has produced an increase in exports during the past five years of more than 50 percent, and directly employs 500,000 American workers,” Selig told an aerospace conference in Los Angeles.

Kudos to Kreutz

When Citizens Business Bank’s parent company announced its acquisition of County Commerce Bank, it bought one of the region’s strongest lending institutions.

Under the leadership of Joe Kreutz, County Commerce topped any number of bank rankings including the Findley Reports, Financial Management Consulting Group and D.A. Davidson surveys.

It achieved 40 consecutive “Five Star” quarterly rankings by Bauer Financial. It was this sort of consistent performance that both made it attractive and commanded a premium price.

Building a community bank is a lot harder than it was a decade or two ago.  Regulatory oversight has grown exponentially, spreads are narrow and many peers did not survive the financial crisis or the wave of new regulations that followed.

Give Kreutz credit where credit is due. He built a fortress institution in West Ventura County and has achieved a profitable exit.