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Economic Development or Bust

Let me relate the Tale of Two Cities, the first being Bend OR. This community lost its major employer when the local mill site was closed in the early 1980s. Guided by the Central Oregon Economic Development Company, a non-profit with both public and private funding, Bend was able to remediate the site of all environmental hazards, preserve historic structures and attract new business that were attracted to Bend’s outdoor assets.

The Old Mill District, as it is called now, is now an economic engine for the region, employing more than 2,000 people.

The other city is Fort Bragg, CA and it has a very different story.

Instead of welcoming the building out of its closed mill site and embracing the economic development that would follow, the city is fighting furiously to stop it.

The hostility extends to members of the press who put the Skunk Train company in a bad light with inaccurate reporting. For example, a reporter wrote that there were no development plans for the north site when in fact such plans were approved by the city council after two years of work.

Jake Lawrence, founder of a non-profit called MedVets, moved to Fort Bragg with a vision of converting the Gray Whale into a home for veterans and their families. These families would live there for a year, training and classes would be available in one of the rooms, care would be provided by the VA.

The vets would slowly work their way back into a normal life. But for two years, the city has made it clear this project is not welcome. It will not grant the requested variance to change the zoning from a hotel to residential uses.

During my campaign I will devote a lot of time discussing the urgent need for economic development in the County and how to make it happen.

A report commissioned by the West Group in 2021 indicates that the County’s economy is in dire shape. Manufacturing has fled to greener pastures, agribusiness is down, and the much hoped for cannabis industry is failing as well.

So, what happens if Mendocino County doesn’t turn this around and begin building a thriving economy? People will leave to find better opportunities. Shortages of workers will become even more pronounced effecting hospitals, clinics, repair shops, and retails stores.

The tourism industry on which we depend will continue to be plagued by lack of workers in hotels and restaurants. The County will fail gradually and then suddenly.

I am in the process of creating the Mendocino County Economic Development Company, a non-profit modeled after those created in other rural communities that turned themselves around. I will speak more of this in the near future.

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