What if we can’t sell Stillwater Business Park? What’s Plan B?
And here I question the premise on which its creation was based. It’s not hard to see how we arrived at building a business park as a strategy for economic growth. Redding itself grew from boom/bust origins. Gold Rush, Rail Town, Mining Town, Lumber Town. We have been all of those. The sad commonality is that the booms all end with a bust. But we remain prisoners of this cyclical thinking. As though this was the only way to nourish our local economy.
Stillwater Business Park was to be the next boom. And it may be, still. Just not yet. And maybe never. But what if we step back think outside the boom/bust cycle? What are community institutions that persist and build economic stability?
Religion. Government. Education. Health. Even boom/bust Redding has these institutions. And they rarely go bust. Churches. Courthouses. Schools. Hospitals. All have outlasted any manufacturing we’ve seen, and most provide good jobs. Construction, Tourism, Manufacturing, all erratic job sources here today gone tomorrow.
We need only look at nearby Chico to see what a large education institution can do for a small town economy. What would Chico be without the University? Or look to Sacramento to see what a large government institution can provide for what would otherwise be just another valley town over the long term. There are countless examples nationwide of communities based around these longterm institutions.
In contrast, we can easily look back on our own prior ‘business park’ accomplishments. Jhirmack built a huge plant in Mountain Lakes, then left town. To the south, Simpson Paper stands today an empty shell with a toxic legacy. Old mines, empty mills, the list goes on. At best, Stillwater would simply be more of the same. Think Detroit.
In my prior post, I wrote that if tech giant Intel had somehow decided to build a fab plant at Stillwater in 2009, we’d all be falling all over ourselves congratulating the visionaries of our business park. It’s easy to imagine. Yet ironically, here in 2014, formerly glamorous Intel is now struggling to cope with a drop in PC demand. Would they be laying off employees in Redding today? Such is the nature of industrial park boom/bust. Promising tech in 2009 is trailing edge in 2014. Boom. Bust.
What if instead we’d put our attention and resources to building proven lasting institutions that can make a difference? What qualities can Redding leverage among Religion, Government, Education and Health?
Unless Redding becomes the seat of Jefferson State government, we can probably discard the idea of somehow becoming a government center like Sacramento.
And although we have become something of a center for Religion, I can’t think of a clear way to directly stimulate or nourish that development, and any potential economy that results.
So that leaves Education and Health. And that leads us to my next post…stay tuned for part 3 coming soon.