O’Neil to bring future-focus to EDC

Former NAWCWD exec. takes the reins of IWV Economic Development Corp., China Lake Alliance

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

O’Neil to bring future-focus to EDC“A long time ago I came into touch with who I am — and I’m a builder,” said Scott O’Neil, who started this week in his new position as executive director of the IWV Economic Development Corp. and the China Lake Alliance.

“I finally realized it didn’t matter what I was building — whether it was a relationship, a team, a widget or a rocket motor — what brings me a sense of achievement is building.”

O’Neil spent 43 years contributing to the Navy’s mission at China Lake, capping his career with more than a decade as executive director of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division.

“Everything is about relationships,” said Chris Ellis, member of the EDC. “Between Scott’s relationships and his detailed knowledge of the inner workings of things that can be improved in our region, I believe he will be able to facilitate growth from a business perspective.”

Ellis said that the EDC has been working to bring new jobs and additional resources — whether from new companies or from the expansion of existing operations — for several years.

“What I saw with Scott was his vision for the community and how it could enhance our ability to support the activities that are already occurring on the base as well as bring in new business that is compatible with the mission while addressing the needs in the community.

“I think Scott O’Neil is the perfect guy to make this happen.”

Although O’Neil brings extensive knowledge and new ideas to his role in helping build up the economic stability and quality of life in the Indian Wells Valley, he said his first objective will be learning what people in the community have to say.

“I’ve started putting this in motion already, but what I want to do is get out and meet with the leaders in various aspects of our community — whether it’s business or government or real estate — to talk about their visions for the community,” said O’Neil.

He hopes from there to synthesize a plan that identifies specific opportunities and objectives. “Once I’ve gotten to that point, we will sit back down together in a group to present that vision. I’ll be looking for input on potential modification, but the goal is to get buy-in from the community — because it will take all of us working together to succeed.”

IWVEDC’s mission is “to enhance the economic prosperity and quality of life in the Indian Wells Valley” through broadening the business base, creating jobs and recruiting new industry.

The EDC’s contributions to local economic endeavors include fund-raising support for the ultimately successful bid to entice air service back to Inyokern Airport and development of a Sports Commission to attract out-of-town tournaments — bolstering both disposable dollars and locally generated tax revenue streams.

The China Lake Alliance, one of the agencies under the umbrella of the EDC, was established to provide political advocacy for the mission on the base. CLA has helped bring awareness of local challenges to higher levels of government and facilitated visits of prominent leaders in government and defense.

O’Neil noted that the objectives of the two organizations parallel the symbiotic nature of our community and the base — with each depending on the success of the other to thrive.

“One thing I asked people to do when I was on the base was to write a newspaper article from 10 years in the future. What will it say about your organization?” he said.

“That’s what we need to do in our community.”

Realistically, O’Neil said, the valley is unlikely to see another enterprise that makes an impact equivalent to the $400-million-a-year payroll of the base. But, he said, there are compatible commercial and industrial endeavors that will augment existing operations in the valley.

In the meantime, he will be taking inventory of the current assets in the valley — which include a highly educated population and the open spaces and natural beauty of living in a playground of the state.

“These are attractors to people looking at moving their operations here.”

Watch future editions of the News Review for updates and opportunities for community participation.

Story First Published: 2017-01-06