By MOCH N. KURNIAWAN
As major U.S. companies continue to report layoffs and poor earnings, the Mission District economy is also faltering, according to interviews with 23 local business representing the neighborhood’s top three employers: service, retail and manufacturing.
Nine businesses, primarily retail, have laid off employees, and six said that they have either seen sales decline or cut working hours.
Eight out of the 23 remained in a good shape, but some worried that they would feel the downturn’s impact soon.
Some 47 percent of all businesses in the Mission are in the services sector, 27 percent in retail, and six percent are in the manufacturing sector, according to the Mission Economic Development Agency report of 2006.
The three sectors represent 68 percent of the Mission’s employment opportunities, according to the report.
“The economy has been bad in the past few years, and it is getting worse this year,” said Maisie Wong, the manager of A.C. Trading Co on Saturday. “Our sales have continued to plunge, so we had no choices but to fire our workers. It’s only me and my husband now.”
Her store, which sells, among other things, clothes, electric goods, stationery bags, and kitchen supplies, was indeed filled with goods rather than customers on Saturday.
Wong said she laid off one employee last March and another in June.
Like Wong, five of the nine businesses that slashed jobs are in retail, two are in services, and another two are in manufacturing.
Only two customers came into the store during the interview with Wong, but then left without buying anything.
“It’s just difficult to survive now,” Wong said. “We are forced to carry out great sales almost all the time.”
Elsy’s restaurant owner Jaime Gonzales shared the grim economic look.
“My restaurant, CA Golden Chicken, went bankrupt January this year and three workers had to lose jobs,” he said. “In here (Elsy’s), I laid off two employees in August, kept the other two and I must work myself in this restaurant.”
Gonzales said Elsy’s saw an 80 percent drop in sales in the last year.
“Not much I can do now, I just want to hang on and see my son graduate from UC Berkeley next year,” he said as he worked the cash register.
Although his business has plummeted, Gonzales energetically served his customers.
In manufacturing, Advance Pleating and Button Co., which designs and creates textile trimmings, has also been hit hard by the economic crisis.
“Our sales slumped 60 percent last month,” Greg Cruz, the owner, said. “Two weeks ago I cut three workers and two more last week, leaving only one worker with me.”
At 2:30 p.m. on Monday his factory on Florida St. was quiet. Cruz was alone in his office, located off the main hall loaded with tables, machines, and yarn.
The layoffs and sales slumps in the retail, services and manufacturing industries reflect the bleak economic situation in the District, as they are the Mission’s economic backbone.
The owners called on the government to ease their burden such by delaying the minimum wage increase until the economy recovers. They also recommended reducing the sales tax.
“The government must suspend the minimum wage hike as long as the economic mayhem prevails,” Wong said. “Postponing the new parking fee of $1.50 per hour would be another good idea to lure people into the Mission.”
Jimmy Patel of the House of Jeans, who has lost six workers, concurred.
He said the 8.5-percent sales tax should be cut to 5 percent to help businesses recover from the difficult time.
But others including Gonzales and Cruz didn’t believe the government would be the cure.
“Believe in the government, hmh no…,” Gonzales said. ”Better to believe that the business cycle will be back positive next year.”