SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Business is very good at the Subway sandwich shop on East Main Street in Santa Maria, which is walking distance from the new Marian Regional Medical Center and its sprawling campus.
"I would say a majority of our clientele is from the hospital", says Myra Murcia who works at Subway as a manager, "its not so surprising, I think there are a lot of people who work there and also the families, they come and grab sandwiches for the patients and stuff, its just easier for them."
"The strength of the community is the people", says new Santa Valley Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Glenn Morris, "this is a very friendly community, my family and I have felt very welcome here, I think that's an attitude we can transfer over to businesses and help them understand."
Morris left a similar job in Visalia to replace Bob Hatch who retired after 20 years at the helm of the influential business organization.
"I think this community values business and employers", Morris says, "that's not always the case in California, so that's a definite strength there as well."
Morris says in the short time he's been in the job he realizes a key pillar in the local economy is the new Marian Regional Medical Center and the cluster of healthcare-related facilities, businesses and offices located nearby.
"It's a great asset for those of us who live here, to know that we have access to high level care right in our own community", Morris says, "from an economic development standpoint, those kinds of things are important to people looking to come here as well, whether they are coming here personally or sending employees to live here, they want them to live in a community that has the right set of assets and healthcare is clearly one of them."
On any given day thousands of people are on the Marian Regional Medical Center campus, with the new 191-bed hospital helping ease what was a nursing shortage in the area.
A hospital spokesperson says more than 80 physicians have been hired in the last five years.
The spokesperson also says Dignity Health, owner of the new Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria as well as Arroyo Grande Community Hospital and French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, continues to support local nurse training programs including those at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria and Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo which provide a steady labor force.
"It can also be an economic driver for us, it can create jobs", Morris says, "as healthcare consolidates a little and becomes maybe more regional we're got a good base that we can build on here to serve not just our community but the region around us and that strengthens our job base."
"Its not just the doctors and the nurses that we think of typically but there's the technicians, there's all the folks that work around them", Morris says, "we end up with people in finance and IT, and all those kinds of things, that support that system, all of those are good jobs."
Morris says agriculture remains the foundation of the Santa Maria Valley economy.
"Agriculture is our base, everything we're going to do ends up being built on that foundation"Morris says, "its the core economy here that drives an awful lot of our activity, and it sets a lot of our values, and I think those are good values, values that teach people to work hard, do an honest day's labor, give good value, be good partners, be good to your word, all those those good values come out of that original base."
Morris says federal immigration reform is important to the future of the local economy.
"Its something that our leaders have got to figure out, it impacts us on too many levels", Morris says, "whether that's on the human side with people who need care and need to be respected with dignity to the employment side where we have to have a stable, predictable workforce, I don't know the answer to it but I do know its got to be figured out."
Morris says business is good in the Santa Maria Valley, and the Santa Maria Valley is good for business.
"I think what we can share the message on behalf of the community is that this is a community that maybe is a little bit what I like to call a pocket of sanity in a state of chaos", Morris says, "this is a good place for them (business owners) to be once they know they have got to be in California."