Community to hear economic outlook

Members of the local business community, along with community leaders, will gather Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Kerr McGee Center for the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce’s annual IWV Economic Outlook Conference.

Speakers will give updates on challenges and opportunities in health care, real estate and government. Military and civilian leaders from the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division will also give an overview of the Navy’s mission at China Lake.

Scott O’Neil, newly hired director of the IWV Economic Development Corp., will give an overview of local efforts to attract compatible industry to the valley.

“Because all of our speakers are local this year, I think we are going to get good picture about where we are,” said Debbie Benson, who is co-chairing this year’s event.

“Each will be discussing, from a differing perspective, what we can do locally to improve things in Ridgecrest — how we can help and maybe what we need to work on.”

As an example, she said, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital CEO Jim Suver will discuss efforts to expand its services to include a mental-health crisis stabilization center.

“Yes, there are cutbacks, and yes, we have financial challenges,” said Benson. But in this instance, she said, the hospital is working with the county and law enforcement to be able to serve the population locally without overtaxing law enforcement officials — who would otherwise need to drive to Bakersfield, where individuals would end up stranded.

“This is the kind of information that is important for us to hear.”

She said she is also looking forward to hearing O’Neil. “He has a real commitment to our community, and I believe he is taking his new role very seriously.

“He has also been on the base, and been back east and has a whole different view of how what we do here at China Lake impacts our nation and the world.”

Beyond the slate of speakers, Benson said that having many local movers and shakers at one event is a tremendous opportunity for outreach.

“I’m a people person, so that’s a big advantage to me. You have a very unique opportunity to interact with people you probably don’t cross paths with in your normal job,” she said.

“You get to find out what’s going on, and you also have a chance to share information about your organization.”

The conference begins at 7 a.m., and lasts until approximately 1 p.m. Breakfast, snacks and beverages will be served. During schedule breaks, participants are encouraged to network with speakers, attendees and the vendors of the Business Expo, held in conjunction with the conference.

Tickets are $50 per person, with a reduced price of $40 for members of the chamber. For additional information call 760-375-8331.

Story First Published: 2017-02-17