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Business Report: SeaWorld Attendance Makes A Comeback

KPBS anchor Ebone Monet and George Belch, Senior Associate Dean of Marketing at SDSU, discuss some of the week’s top business stories.

Q: So how was SeaWorld able to make this big turnaround?

A: SeaWorld had a lot of challenges. The Blackfish documentary came out in 2013 and created a lot of negative publicity for them. The controversy lingered for a long time. In many ways the San Diego SeaWorld location was hurt more than anyone, I think. Perhaps people are more environmentally and socially conscious in California, but SeaWorld really had to address that. They've made changes. They've gotten rid of the live orca shows, and they're not breeding them in captivity anymore. They focused a lot on the great things that SeaWorld does in terms of animal rescue, and some of the marine programs that they have. I think they addressed the controversy head-on. They had a marketing campaign "SeaWorld Cares" where they really focused on a lot of things. But that's been going on for years. The more recent things, I think they've added new attractions. You now have the tumbler roller coaster. You have the Sesame Street party parade.

We also have to recognize that there's been an economic recovery. People are traveling more. The younger generation of millennials who are having kids, they love experiences. And SeaWorld offers some really great experiences.

RELATED: City Council Unanimously Approves Plan To Turn Horton Plaza Into Tech Hub

Q: Does “Campus At Horton” have the potential to revitalize downtown San Diego?

A: I think the new project clearly does. Horton Plaza started in many ways a revitalization. Let's give it its respect and the due it deserves. Unfortunately, the retail landscape has changed dramatically. Retail is now competing against Amazon, which online sales are pushing close to 20% of overall sales in the US. This year retailers will close over 6,000 stores. They will only open about 2,500. The stores you would like to have at Horton Plaza aren't going to be there unless they can show tremendous sales per square foot. They've lost major anchor tenants like Nordstrom. So deciding what to do with that space, this new tech center, I think was a very smart move. If you go to cities like Nashville, Google and Amazon are going there. They're located near the downtown areas. The young people, the millennials, the Gen-Zs, they like living downtown. They like being able to walk to work. They don't want to sit on the freeway for an hour like a lot of people in the suburbs have to do.

I think an important factor here as well is that these tech jobs will pay a lot more than the retail jobs. You're going to be paying the software engineers and the scientists a lot more than you're going to be paying someone who worked in retail.

RELATED: ‘Playing Catch-Up In The Game of Life.’ Millennials Approach Middle Age In Crisis

Q: Some scary news for millennials, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that as millennials enter middle-age, they're in worse financial shape than the generations before them. What are the factors causing this?

A: I'm glad you started out by saying some scary news because I couldn't agree more. This is scary. We have a problem with income disparity in this country. We know it but I think we often think about it at the extremes. But we have a group kind of in the middle that's suffering as well. This is a generation that's the most educated of all. They have higher levels of education than baby boomers or Gen-X.

But the fact is they came into the job market at a difficult time. A lot of them entered the job market around 2008, 2009 when the Great Recession hit. We have to remember during that Great Recession unemployment was 14%. It just went below 4%. We have to reflect on how bad things were eight or nine years ago, but we started a recovery and that recovery has continued. Unfortunately, the millennials haven't participated as well. Many of them could not buy homes. They could not buy stock portfolios. Housing prices have escalated over the last five years. These people were renters. They don't have the money for a down-payment. They came out of school with a lot of debt. So they're up against the wall in terms of trying to make it economically, and, in many cases, even the jobs that they're getting aren't necessarily paying enough to allow them to keep up.

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