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Hectic year for businesses

January 07, 2004

Ryan Carter

Workers' compensation and the high costs of contributing to employee

health care were at the top of the list of local business owner

concerns in 2003. But business was a hot topic on other fronts. Last

year was the one in which a chamber of commerce executive called it

quits and the downtown area got a revamped theater and a new, hip

clothing store. Development continued and a couple of nonprofit

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organizations had problems -- and alleged problems.

WORKERS' COMP/HEALTH-CARE COSTS TAKE THE CAKE

Business payments for workers' compensation and medical care came

to the fore- front this year as local chambers of commerce lamented

premiums that were threatening to drive them out of the state.

"We can't hire anymore," Sunder Ramani, owner of Beauty Kiss

Floors in Burbank, said in June when the legislative fervor over the

issue was at its peak.

Legislators scurried in 2003 to pass a package of bills aimed at

trimming what they said were about $4 billion in extraneous costs in

the state's $29-billion workers' compensation system. They also

passed a controversial law requiring more small businesses to pay

health insurance for workers.

But local business leaders are looking for more reform in 2004.

The Burbank and Glendale chambers of commerce are meeting Thursday

morning to talk more about workers' compensation legislation with the

hope of getting local legislators to bring down costs. They also want

to learn more about the issue.

"It's easy to talk about workers' compensation as a simple issue,"

said Ernest Burger, a board member of the Burbank chamber. "We're all

in favor of workers' comp. It's clearly something that business

appreciates. The problem is when the costs escalate dramatically

without real benefit to workers."

BOWERS SAYS

FAREWELL TO CHAMBER

Susan Bowers, the Burbank Chamber of Commerce executive director

for four years, called it quits at the end of 2003. During Bowers'

tenure, chamber membership grew from 778 to 1,050 members, and

attendance rose at chamber-sponsored events and fund-raisers.

Along with her chamber duties, Bowers served as chairwoman for

Leadership Burbank, a local nonprofit organization that helps train

future leaders. She has also worked with city officials and school

district officials on various planning issues.

"The greatest thing is really bringing the chamber to the table in

the community," she told the Leader in November.

AMC, ENTERTAINMENT VILLAGE TAKES SHAPE

The ongoing effort to revitalize the downtown business area took

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