Conference brightens outlook of attendees

Conference brightens outlook of attendeesReporting on the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce’s annual IWV Economic Outlook Conference continues this week with a report on keynote speaker Scott O’Neil and the valley’s locally elected officials. Watch next week’s edition for updates in health care, real estate and the Navy’s mission at China Lake.

By REBECCA NEIPP

News Review Staff Writer

Key changes on the horizon, an improved presentation and a keynote address by an insider seem to have contributed to a brightened sense about future prospects following last week’s Indian Wells Valley Economic Outlook Conference.

“The feedback we are getting seems to be pretty similar — everyone seems to feel reassured after seeing what is happening with health care, growth on the base and all the other changes in our community,” said Debbie Benson, co-chair of the event.

“I think a big part of that was getting Scott O’Neil as our keynote speaker,” she said. (See related story, this edition).

“I appreciated that he went out and talked to all the groups in town to find out where we are as a community. I know that’s going to help him in his new role.

“It just seems like he is doing a good job lining up the elements that need to be addressed and building a team — that kind of collaboration helps anything we do as a community.”

She said she particularly appreciated the dose of optimism in the context of national upheaval and uncertainty. “There is so much negativity any time you turn on the news. No matter what party or belief system you affiliate with, being afraid and operating out of fear is not a good thing. I think the message at the Outlook Conference was something we all needed to hear.”

Scott Seymour, general manager at Inyokern Airport, said that in addition to finalizing plans to bring in a new airline, the airport is looking for ways to augment its industrial opportunities.

“The bottom line is that, without that activity, we are a general aviation airport that will struggle to maintain our current level of infrastructure,” he said.

“I was really encouraged by what I heard.” He said he appreciated the update from Rear Adm. Brian Corey and Joan Johnson about work at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division.

“There was also a lot of really great information about real estate. And I thought Jim Suver [of Ridgecrest Regional Hospital] gave the best presentation. I’m really happy about all the growth at the hospital since he has been here,” said Seymour

“I came away very excited,” said Sierra Sands Unified School District Superintendent Ernie Bell.

“Scott O’Neil did a great job outlining what’s happening not just in our own community, but in other places that will impact us.

“It looks like there are a lot of new changes coming to Ridgecrest, and I am very optimistic about our future.”

“I feel more hopeful about what our community leaders are trying to accomplish,” said Kathy Blurton, president of the Ridgecrest Area Association of Realtors.

She noted that the report about low inventory in the real estate market is a sign that we are indeed a growing community.

“I would have liked to have heard from the airport, and what is happening with the commercial airline coming in,” she said.

Thanks to Bernie Mondragon, one of the event sponsors, Mesquite High School teacher Brian Williams was able to attend with a group of students.

“He was a former elementary school student of mine, and a graduate of Mesquite,” said Williams. “He called and asked if we wanted to sit at his table, which I thought was pretty cool.”

This was his first time attending, he said. “I really liked the event. It was positive, and overall it just made me feel more secure with the leaders in our community. I appreciate the fact that they are not just considering what is happening right now, but looking 5, 10, 15 years in the future.”

Williams said that, being on this side of the gate, it’s not always easy to know what’s happening at China Lake. “As a citizen, I have always felt proud being here. But when you hear about what is happening, and that leaders at the national level are excited about what’s happening here — that really makes you feel excited to be here.”

Bobby Beed III, a junior at Mesquite, said that he particularly enjoyed hearing the updates from base leadership.

“I think it’s great that things are happening that will improve our town.” But, he said, he would like to see more recreational venues for the local youth. “I think we need something here that kids can do for fun without having to go out of town.”

“I really liked hearing about everything new that’s happening at the hospital,” said junior Alexis Agular. “And it was pretty cool to get to be one of the first people to hear about it.”

She said that she would like to see additional food chains open in Ridgecrest. “Instead of another Starbucks or another Subway, it would be nice to see a Sonic or something new.”

“It’s good to see new things coming to town, and I’m interested in anything that brings jobs to our community. The new trauma center at the hospital sounds like a great thing for Ridgecrest,” said senior Huberto Rivera.

“I thought all of the information was great — I told Mr. Williams we should do it again.”

“He said it was better than school!” added Williams.

“I was really happy we had this opportunity for our students. They were pretty quiet during the conference, but they’ve been talking about it ever since, which I think is a good thing.”

Williams said he would definitely like to return with another group of students. “The young people often talk about the fact that there is nothing to do in town. I think that gives you kind of a negative view. But when you hear all the efforts toward making this a better place, that kind of optimism is really infectious.”

Pictured: More than 200 attendees listened to updates from community leaders at last week’s IWV?Economic Outlook Conference. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-03-03