Discussion Looks at the Impact of COVID on Yolo Business and Telecommuting

How is the business sector dealing with the pandemic?  Greater Sacramento hosted a discussion moderated by Supervisor Don Saylor on Thursday with a discussion from leaders in the construction, food and banking industries to explore how things have changed and how well new practices have and have not worked.

Supervisor Don Saylor served as moderator and noted that these are challenging times with stay-at-home orders.

“We all know that every job is essential to the family and the individual who works there,” Supervisor Saylor said.  “We need to find ways to safely re-open and move forward on our road to recovery.”

He said, “This is not going to be business as usual, it’s going to be business in a way that’s safe for our workers.”

At the same time he said that these industries—construction, food, and banking—“are critical industries to our recovery, they are strong in our region.”

Don Clark is from Clark Pacific, headquartered in Yolo County for over 55 years, performing commercial construction.  They have been deemed an essential business, which has allowed them to continue operations through the stay at home.

“It is not as easy as it sounds,” he explained.  “The risks of COVID-19 are not going away any time soon.”

These risks and their continued operation forced their company to develop safe protocols. He explained that 200 engineers and their team had to figure out quickly how to effectively work from home.

He explained, “It seems like it’s worked reasonably well for us.”

Not everyone can work from home, however.  “To continue our fabrication facilities,” he said, “we created a task force that met daily.  The group was responsible for developing and implementing our work safety protocols.”

They created a workplace continuity plan, which is a continuing evolving plan that includes all best practices.  This includes constant temperature checks.  People have been hired whose responsibility is to clean and disinfect across the facility.  there are face mask protocols for everyone working in the plant.

“Overall it’s been very effective,” he said.  “We’re very comfortable and we’ve not had one incident.”

He explained that they are hoping to start getting some of their office people back, but they have to create protocols for that in order to do it safely.

“The good news is I think we can do this in not only a safe manner, but something that works effectively for us,” he said.  “We’ve lost some productivity, but overall it’s been successful and we’ve been able to adjust to it.”

Chelsea Minor, the corporate director for Raley’s, talked about the challenges for their industry.

She explained that as an essential business they have remained open and their challenge is to make sure that “the supply chain for food is secured and accessible to all.”

Minor said they’ve made over 40 operational changes throughout this crisis – especially early on.

“This is going to become the new normal,” she said.

Minor explained, “We are very lucky in the United States that we have a very sophisticated food system.  But specifically, we have seen in this situation the value of our local supply chain.”

The role of farmers in the local region, she said, “has been not only tried but tested in this time frame.”

About the availability of products and continuation, she said, “That is because of our local suppliers.”

They expect toilet paper and other paper supplies to come back in the next four to six weeks.

“That was something we did not expect,” she said.  “So bear with us.”

Stephen Fleming is President and CEO of River City Bank.

“We have had to stay open,” he said.  “Most of our employees have been working remotely for the last couple of months.

He said, “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the level of productivity with the folks working from home.”

He added, “That’s been a learning lesson, something that will change the way our business will work in the future.  I think there will be more flexibility allowing people to work from home given what we’ve experienced with their productivity in all of this.”

But, he said, they do have branches that they operate.  Those have remained open.  In their branches, they have people walking in.  Other banks have gone to drive up only.

During the discussion, the question came up about the effectiveness of working from home, which has caused many industries and businesses to reevaluate the effectiveness of that as an ongoing business practice.

Don Clark noted, “We also were surprised by how well it has been working.”  At the same time, he said, “You can’t beat face to face for a lot of what we do.”  He said, “This isn’t so bad.  For some of our long commuters, this is something we will put into our plan.”

Danielle Casey from Greater Sacramento said, “We’re very similar.  There are a lot of positions that you didn’t think could be remote that were forced to do remote, especially with our business support center.”

She noted that some input they have gotten from other businesses is that they were worried about going remote, but found that their team members appreciated going one hundred percent remote long term.

“It depends on the size, scale, and nature of the industry they work in,” she said.

Barry Broome added that in making a huge number of presentations to the Bay Area, “what we have found out is that they are very amenable to a Zoom call—not only now, but into the future.”

He noted that Digital Companies are growing like crazy—1100 percent job growth in the digital sector during the pandemic.

Overall he said there are areas that have really benefited from going online “and we will continue to maintain that.”

Long term, they are more likely to give people a chance to telecommute from work.

“There is a lot lost in collaboration and a lot lost in strategic planning,” he said.  He has created teams of three that work in a room with social distancing, masks and surgical gloves.

Stephen Fleming said, “It’s somewhat nuanced.  It depends to a certain extent on the attitudes of your employees.  Some employees are anxious to get back to the audience… they miss the audience environment.”

Others, he said, “it’s going to be harder for them to come back,” especially those with long commutes.  “We will look to see if we can accommodate them as we go forward.”  That will depend on the roles that they play.  “I don’t see us… to rush to require people to come back in.

“They are functioning at such a high level as it is,” he said.

Questions about the food supply were also addressed.

“The food is safe,” Chelsea Minor explained.  She added, “This is not a food borne illness.”

“Especially for products that you’re cooking, you should have no fear,” she said.

She did recommend wiping off packages when you don’t know who touched it.

Overall, she said, it would be normal “as long as people continue to monitor their purchasing, and not over purchasing for more than a week or two for their families.”

Barry Broome at the end noted the potential for economic development in Yolo County.

“Obviously a lot of sobering news,” he said.  “But I want to give some positive news as well.

“We have 14 science-based enterprises looking at Yolo County right now for space,” he said.  He said that he spoke with Aggie Square that morning, and “28 companies are committed.”

The Regents will approve that in November and, in January, they will break ground on the $1 billion project in the urban core.

“The strength of that institution is still in Davis, not Sacramento,” he said.  “If you can get 28 world class companies and $1 billion in the Sacramento market which is largely the medical school and health care sector, think what happens when we more meaningfully engage the number one veterinary school in world, the number one food and agricultural school in the world and all of the other incredible sustainability achievements.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Keith Olsen

    I see the discussion didn’t include businesses that are currently shut down.

    It would be interesting to hear their assessments, their future plans (if they have any) and how they feel about the current conditions.

    1. Keith Olsen

      These businesses make it sound like everything is okay, just a few adjustments, all hunky dory.  33 million people have applied for unemployment in the last few weeks.  More people are now not working than working in this country.  These accounts in no way give the true feel about how bad things actually are for many/most businesses.

          1. David Greenwald

            A lot of people went to unemployment rather than strain their business during these times. The key question is going to be whether there is a rebound when the economies open up.

        1. David Greenwald

          NYT: “ The one bright spot in Friday’s report was that nearly 80 percent of the unemployed said that they had been temporarily laid off and expected to return to their jobs in the coming months.”

  2. Richard McCann

    He noted that Digital Companies are growing like crazy—1100 percent job growth in the digital sector during the pandemic.

    This doesn’t seem possible. In two months? Isn’t this sector already big in California? If there were just 100,000 in the Bay Area, this implies the addition of a MILLION new employees, which would offset one-third of the state’s jobless claims since March.

  3. Alan Miller

    Supervisor Don Saylor served as moderator and noted that these are challenging times with stay-at-home orders.

    Sounds like Captain Obvious was sheltering in place and otherwise unavailable.

  4. Alan Miller

    Greater Sacramento hosted . . .

    And the discussion stops there.  These peeps, like Gavin’s team of State Money Rulers Virus Team, are the corporate interests with the political connections and the deep pockets.  They may ‘hurt’, if corporations are even capable of pain, but I couldn’t give two f*cks what they have to say.  What I care about are the mom and pops — and if anyone from the Greater Sacramento corporate crowd used their connections to steal Covid-19 small business loan monies from the mom and pops that weren’t so well connected and actually deserved/needed the money.

    1. David Greenwald

      For the most part, with economic development, we are not talking about mom and pop businesses. We may be talking about startups – which is very important and which Greater Sacramento does assist.

      1. Don Shor

        For the most part, with economic development, we are not talking about mom and pop businesses.

        We noticed. You should be. Small businesses employ nearly half the workforce. On a square-foot basis, small retailers are some of the best providers of sales tax revenue. But it is true that all the discussion about economic development tends to focus on larger, glitzier, trendier types of businesses. Those are not usually the best sources of revenue for municipalities.
        The reality is that a little retail mall at the ARC site would be better for the city’s coffers than any of the types of businesses that are usually discussed for that site.

  5. Alan Miller

    Barry Broome at the end noted the potential for economic development in Yolo County.

    Oh Barry, always the optimist  . . .  potentially.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Yolo county has plenty of space.  Apparently, it doesn’t “pencil out” to build another commercial development, on its own.

        I haven’t heard much about the business park proposed for Woodland lately, either.  Even with the housing.

        I suspect that West Sacramento has both of these locations “beat”, due to existing infrastructure.

        Regarding the “14 companies”, is this coming from the same guy who claims that there’s “1100 percent” job growth in the digital sector?  And, that business parks should be located within 200 yards of a university?

        Didn’t Rik discuss this person’s background on here, previously?

        Also, I agree with Alan M., in that it would be more interesting to hear the impact on actual local/small businesses.

        1. Tia Will

          I agree that a forum discussing things from the mom & pop business point of view would be of value. Maybe some of you with an interest in this area could pitch the idea to Don Saylor…or even David Greenwald?

      2. Ron Oertel

        Yeah, it’s the same guy.  (Just read the article, again.)

        But actually, even he didn’t say that there’s companies “wanting” to move to Yolo county. That’s your wording.

        Regarding Aggie Square, we can go over the differences regarding that again, if you’d like. Also rather odd that Mr. Broome would attribute UCD medical center’s “strength” to “Davis”.

        1. David Greenwald

          “We have 14 science-based enterprises looking at Yolo County right now for space,” he said

          And I confirmed it with a follow up to G-Sac

        2. Ron Oertel

          “Wanting to” (your wording) has an entirely different meaning than “looking at” somewhere in Yolo county as a possibility.

          There’s so many unknowns about this claim that you can drive a truck through it.

        3. Ron Oertel

          We can go over some of the unknowns, if you’d like.

          I was just pointing out the difference between what you said, vs. the quote from Mr. Broome (in your article).

          Did Mr. Broome say that they’re having trouble finding space in West Sacramento, for example? Or, at the railyard redevelopment, or the former ARCO arena? (Just a few that come to mind.)

        4. Ron Oertel

          Exploring this a little further, did Mr. Broome discuss what’s happening with these plans, for a “mixed use” development at the former ARCO arena site?

          This article is from 2018, so I’m wondering why this isn’t moving forward so far.  Apparently, the latest plan is to use it as a coronvirus emergency center, if needed. (Which makes me wonder if the “mixed-use” plan isn’t working out so well – even in a community that would welcome it with “fully open arms”.)


        5. Ron Oertel

          Ooh, Ooh – I just thought of another possibility for Mr. Broome:

          County Fair Mall, in Woodland.  It’s been going downhill ever since they opened the newer “CostCo” mall.

          Maybe similar situations at other malls in the region, as well. 

          Is Arden Fair doing well? Frankly, I don’t feel all that comfortable there, when I visit it. Seems like that area could use some better jobs, especially when compared to a place like Davis.

          With an added benefit of these type of sites qualifying as “infill”.

          Maybe you can tell Mr. Broome “you’re welcome”, for that idea.


          1. Don Shor

            The city of Woodland has been trying to entice the owner of the County Fair Mall to redevelop it for years now.

        6. Ron Oertel

          Yeah, probably the Yolo county fair site eventually, as well.

          But yeah, I would think that there’d be “no problem whatsoever” finding places for companies that “want” to move to the region. Including a VAST supply of infill sites.

          1. David Greenwald

            The other interesting thing is that it appears that Aggie Square is already filled and they haven’t even broken ground on the site.

        7. Alan Miller

          rather odd that Mr. Broome would attribute UCD medical center’s “strength” to “Davis”.

          I attribute my “strength” to “pushups”.  That’s more believable.

        8. Alan Miller

          “We have 14 science-based enterprises looking at Yolo County right now for space,” he said

          LOOK-ing.  Are they LOOK-ing anywhere else?  Was he talking to someone from YOLOLOLO when he mentioned this LOOK-ing?  Are they LOOK-ing at W. Sac?  Woodland?  Winters?  When they LOOK, what do they SEE?

      3. Alan Miller

        “They” . . . . . . . . . . . . “have” . . . . . . . . . . . .

        So, that’s how it works?   Companies contact Lord Barry and Great Sac, and The Wizard lines up these companies for location within Yo, Lo?

        Who needs a real estate agent?

  6. Ron Oertel

    The other interesting thing is that it appears that Aggie Square is already filled and they haven’t even broken ground on the site.

    Also, are you referring to Phase 1, which is only 8 acres?  Or, are you referring to the “entire” 24 acres?

    Regardless, would you care to discuss the (other) differences between Aggie Square and the proposed ARC site, again?

    Here’s some of the differences:

    It’s on UCD’s land.

    It’s heavily subsidized with other government money.

    It’s adjacent to their medical center.

    It’s infill.


    1. David Greenwald

      You’re arguing over small points – the large point is that there are companies wanting to move there. Aggie Square represents mainly medical technology, but ARC would focus more on ag tech and vet tech and clean technology. The demand here is a lot greater than you are acknowledging.

      1. Ron Oertel

        It was pointed out (by a planning commissioner) that the ARC developer’s “model” is the “flypaper approach”, regarding the type of businesses they might be able to attract.

        It is a lie to suggest otherwise.

        That same commissioner noted a significant amount of commercial vacancies in the Bay Area, despite their lack of continued sprawl.

        Aggie Square is publicly-subsidized, and is adjacent to a medical center.

        Ultimately, ARC’s “model” is based upon demand for housing.  That’s a reason they’re “loading up” the housing during the first three phases, with none in the last phase.

        By the time that last phase is pursued (or sooner), developers will pursue another (residential) peripheral development, partly as a result of the additional housing demand created by ARC.

        It’s a complete circle, ultimately with no net benefit.



        1. David Greenwald

          I think both members of the planning commission and your comments here mostly have this wrong. You have to have housing for people – they are going putting housing around Aggie Square, though not in it. But this is about economic development and there are real opportunities now to do this and have it be a great benefit to the community.

  7. Ron Oertel

    Tia:  “I agree that a forum discussing things from the mom & pop business point of view would be of value. Maybe some of you with an interest in this area could pitch the idea to Don Saylor…or even David Greenwald?”

    Ironically, that topic is suggested by the title of this article.  Instead, it’s actually David’s usual advocacy, for ARC.


    1. Ron Oertel

      At first glance, I would think that local nurseries, for example, might be negatively impacted.  But today, I saw this article:

      “We are 500% busier than we normally are this time of year,” said Mario DiGrande, owner of Oakland’s Thornhill Nursery. “I’ve already sold as much soil in six weeks that I do in an entire year. It’s just crazy.”


      I’m sure there’s other unexpected results, as well. Maybe restaurants that offer take-out food? Or, home improvement/hardware stores?

      1. Keith Olsen

        People are stuck at home with not much to do so fixing up the house or landscape is an outlet now that they have the time.

        Every hardware store I’ve been to in the last month has been very crowded.


  8. Bill Marshall

    Alan… I have trusted correspondents having their e-mail “spoofed”… and several trusted folk who were clueless when I returned their calls…

    There is another insidious ‘virus’ occurring… meant to steal your info, identity, finances… particularly, apparently, if you are 50 +… I’ve known some who have been ‘hurt’, big time…

    Wish the politicians would address that ‘virus’… might actually damage folk, economically, more than covid-19, but not likely to cause hospitalization, nor deaths… but it appears there is zero effort to stop an endemic virus of the spammers/spoofers…

    Am dead-dog serious… the spamming/spoofers are not the # 1 concern now, but might come a close second, financially (not physical health)… wish the State/Fed legislators would at least have it high on their “to-do” list… after , or possibly concurrently with, dealing with the pandemic… the spoofing/scamming/spamming is also a pandemic, on-going for years, and increasing recently… as to those, I have face shields/face coverings (masks), but not all have those available, or don’t realize their ‘risks of infection’…

    We’ve been exposed to the ‘other virus’ a dozen times in the last week… but we have ‘acquired immunity’… not all have… I’m looking to protect ‘the herd’… particularly those over 50…

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