SANTA CRUZ -- Summer sales tax receipts rose 5.5 percent in the city of Santa Cruz from 2011 and the fourth quarter was up 9 percent, "our strongest quarter," city development chief Bonnie Lipscomb told 115 people at Tuesday's Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Cocoanut Grove.
Bill Tysseling, who heads the chamber, described the forecast for the next 18 months, based on 170 responses from local business owners and managers, as "optimistic but cautious."
For the first time, all the survey results have been posted online at http://bit.ly/scsurvey13.
None of the survey respondents projected significant decreases in revenues; about 16 percent, more than a year ago, expect significant revenue increases.
Those expecting to increase employee wages grew from 54 to 61 percent, with one out of 10 planning "significant" wage growth.
Not as many plan to add employees, 29 percent vs. 42 percent a year ago.
Santa Cruz respondents ranked broadband for speedier Internet service in commercial areas as the most important capital project and improving the Ocean Street gateway to the city garnered broad support.
Ryan Coonerty, co-founder of the NextSpace co-working venture, predicted more Silicon Valley retirees will be selling their homes over the hill and living full-time in their second homes over here.
He pointed out Millenials "choose where they want to live and then find a job," companies are bringing on workers who are temporary or part-time, and by 2020, up to 40 percent of people may work out of their homes.
"We need to build business strategies around this," Coonerty said.
Tejal Sood of Bayside Resorts said 60 percent of hotel reservations are made online.
"Guests expect tech-smart gadgets in every sector of lodging," she said, noting her father, 76, checks hotel revenues on his iPhone.
She said she sees a need to fill empty rooms between November and March by attracting more than leisure customers.
"The ability to retain these visitors and attract new ones depends on our ability to provide a safe environment," she added.
Zach Davis, co-owner of The Penny Ice Creamery and The Picnic Basket, talked about "the magical feeling" he got visiting Santa Cruz as a 12-year-old and stressed "the importance that Santa Cruz be awesome and people know it."
That will attract people to work here and to start businesses here, he said.
"We're in the business of selling cool," said Bob DeNike of NHS, a wholesaler that in 1972 developed the red-dot Santa Cruz logo seen worldwide.
He put the company's sales in the global market at $125 million retail and in Santa Cruz County $3.5 million retail.
NHS is known for skateboards but about 30 percent of its sales are clothing, and the company is shifting to "lifestyle consumers" and working on a "Stars Wars" project in connection with the film launch.
"I'm really encouraged," said John Collins of Goodwill, happy to see employees anticipating hiring.
Robert Singleton of startup Civinomics said, "People today don't want to stop working and retire, that's what drives them."
Follow Sentinel reporter Jondi Gumz on Twitter at Twitter.com/jondigumz
AT A GLANCE
Among the findings of the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce survey:
Santa Cruz exceeds expectations in its natural environment, the quality of UC Santa Cruz, and as a center for the arts and creativity, but falls short in business-friendliness, affordability, as a shopping area, in K-12 education, and as a safe place to be.
52 percent expect increase in gross revenues and 16 percent expect a significant increase; 23 percent expect stable revenues.
About 10 percent reported positive change in access to loans and financing last year.
Print advertising commanded more than 20 percent of advertising expenditures even as 30 percent of businesses invested in their own website.
More than 60 percent of respondents were affiliated with the Santa Cruz chamber and 40 percent affiliated with Think Local First.