2020: The Year In Review
The Dec. 25 edition of the Pacific Coast Business Times was our annual Year In Review, featuring a look back at our biggest and most interesting stories from a year we won’t soon forget, as much as we all might like to. Here is a look at 2020 through our headlines, starting in January, when we first started hearing about something called the novel coronavirus:
InTouch Health, a telehealth and health care robotics company in Goleta, was acquired in a cash-and-stock deal by Teladoc Health, a publicly traded company based in New York. A local investor who commented on the deal said it was like InTouch has “gone sort of public in an indirect way.”
Arcutis Biotheraputics went public three days after this article published, raising $160 million. It ended 2020 with a market capitalization of around $1.3 billion.
Citrus growers in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties continued to fight the Asian citrus psyllid and the disease it carries, known as citrus greening disease, huanglongbing, or HLB. In January, a team of HLB-sniffing dogs visited orchards in Ventura County.
In February, COVID-19 had only begun to spread outside of China, and the impact on the tri-county region was concentrated among companies that imported from or exported to China.
Though there were only 34 confirmed cases in the Tri-Counties by March 19, the pandemic had arrived in full force. People were advised to stay home, restaurants and other businesses were closed, office workers began working from home, stock markets plummeted and travel and tourism ground to a halt.
As the pandemic deepened, tens of thousands of people in the Tri-Counties lost their jobs, either temporarily or permanently, as unemployment rates hit levels unseen since the Great Depression. “We got hammered by this,” one CEO told the Business Times. “It’s horrible,” an unemployed hairdresser said.
Why was it hard for Procter & Gamble to produce enough toilet paper at its Oxnard plant and other facilities around the world? Demand for home essentials went up when everyone was home all the time, and meeting that demand wasn’t easy: In the world of just-in-time global supply chains, toilet paper plants tend to run at full capacity all the time, which doesn’t leave room to ramp up production in an emergency.
As the nation was gripped by protests against racism and police brutality, some Black business owners in the Tri-Counties reported a show of support from the community, while others continued to struggle in a pandemic-striken economy.
A few months after it marked its 40th birthday, Amgen became the first company based in the Tri-Counties to be included in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Mission Produce, a major avocado distributor based in Oxnard, joined the ranks of the region’s publicly traded companies on Oct. 1. The IPO valued the company at $832 million; its market capitalization has since risen a little above $1 billion.
Measure O, which allows commercial greenhouse cultivation of cannabis on certain agricultural land, was approved by a comfortable margin by Ventura County voters. Voters in the city of Ventura also approved a city-level cannabis tax, clearing the way for the City Council to permit retail dispensaries in the city.
Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc was not on the Air Force’s list of six finalists for its new Space Command headquarters. “We don’t think this is over yet,” one Vandenberg advocate said.
Santa Barbara-based Well Health, one of the companies closing the digital divide between patients and doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic, raised $45 million in one of the region’s biggest venture capital raises of 2020.
The Trade Desk, a Ventura-based advertising technology company, was the region’s hottest stock in 2020, topping $900 at times. In early December, it had gained more than 500% since its low point for the year, at the start of the pandemic in March.
Businesses in the tri-county region received more than $2.87 billion in potentially forgivable loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, according to a Business Times analysis of data released in early December by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
One of the last major stories of 2020 may prove to be the most consequential one of all, as the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the region heralds a possible end to the pandemic sometime in 2021.
Westlake Village BioPartners launched two new funds worth a combined $500 million, bringing the firm’s total to $820 million since it was founded in 2018. Seven of the startups funded by the firm are based in a new life sciences complex in Thousand Oaks. “We focused on building the companies as much as possible here,” one of Westlake Village BioPartners’ founders said.