EDC to branch off from Alliance

Retired senior exec steps up to lead CLA

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

EDC to branch off from AllianceThe Indian Wells Valley Economic Development Corp. and its subsidiary, the China Lake Alliance, are departing from a shared corporate structure and establishing two independent companies with distinct, but cooperative, missions.

Leaders of both agencies confirm that they will continue to coordinate efforts to protect the mission of the base while fostering economic vibrancy in the valley, and note that the split will facilitate greater focus and efficiency for each group.

Both trace their roots to IWV 2000, a community initiative started in the 1990s as leadership from both sides of the Navy fence explored steps to ensure that China Lake and the civilian community that supports it would not only survive, but also thrive, after the significant reduction in workforce that resulted from 1995’s Base Realignment and Closure.

Following the scrutiny that came with BRAC, some of the base’s historic advantages — remoteness of location and secrecy of mission — became potential liabilities as the politics that ensued underscored the importance of maintaining a robust private sector around the base and fostering an appropriate understanding of local contributions and capabilities to key decision-makers.

For years the China Lake Alliance has operated as a high-profile advocate for the mission and played an instrumental role in bringing to the valley top government and elected officials and educating them on the value of the installation to national defense.

Most attribute the comparatively favorable outcome of the 2005 BRAC — which yielded nearly 1,000 new billets and $300 million in new construction — to our community’s ability to more meaningfully engage in the process.

Meanwhile, a slow-burning EDC board has been working behind the scenes to address building up limited local revenue streams that enhance funding for essential infrastructure and quality of life — which indirectly strengthen the mission of the base through improved recruitment and retention of a qualified workforce.

The EDC’s efforts were ramped up earlier this year when Scott O’Neil, formerly the top civilian at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, came onboard as the executive director of both EDC and CLA.

Although he has been proactive with both organizations, the burgeoning opportunities related to the EDC have begun demanding more of his time and attention.

“This is the right time and the right thing to do,” said O’Neil.

Current EDC initiatives include a proposal to build a comprehensive aquatic center — which will serve not only to enrich of quality of life for new and future residents, but also to augment revenue in athletic tourism.

EDC partnerships with local sports leagues have been successful in bringing regional tournaments to our community. The visitors to those events feed into transient-occupancy and sales taxes while spending hundreds of thousands annually with local businesses.

Jim Suver, who has been spearheading the transition as an EDC boardmember, said that if you picture the CLA and EDC as a Venn diagram, “the intersect of the missions and influences for those two spheres has been growing smaller for quite some time.

“The common ground remaining is that both agencies want to protect the Navy and are working toward sustainable growth. But the tactics of how to achieve that are really different between the two groups.

“Still, at the end of the day, it’s the same mission with a different corporate structure.”

Among the advantages of the separation are the distinctions in nonprofit status, which will preserve China Lake Alliance’s ability (as a 501(c)4 organization) to focus on advocacy and the Economic Development Corp.’s (as a 501(c)3) to focus on fund-raising.

While the IWV has plenty of positive attributes to recommend it — clean air, low crime, affordable living, high-paying jobs — it also comes with a unique set of challenges, including our isolated location and symbiotic relationship with the Navy.

“I think the EDC really started seeing success once the board departed from the typical approach of economic agencies,” said Suver.

While the EDC is helping incubate several opportunities for new operations, much of its added value has been to existing businesses and services.

“In this way our model almost resembles that of a community service club. Between that subtle shift, and in bringing Scott on board, I think we have been able to accomplish some incredible things in a very short amount of time,” said Suver.

“When I realized I was going to need to really focus on economic development, I started thinking about who the best person would be to take up China Lake Alliance,” said O’Neil.

That led him to David Janiec, a retired China Laker who has served the local mission as both a captain in the Navy and a program manager on the base. “I’ve known Dave for a long time — we both entered senior executive service around the same time and have worked very well together,” O’Neil said.

“He has a wealth of experience, he understands the base, but perhaps most importantly his key role in BRAC 2005 gives him insight into defending the organization and ensuring follow-through on any future BRAC. Having someone with his experience, from both the community and the Navy perspective, is extremely valuable.”

In just a few short weeks, Janeic has met with local and state leadership in attempts to get up to speed on the most current issues facing CLA.

The alliance board will officially vote on Janiec’s taking the position at its Sept. 20 meeting, and he is expected to begin in his new role on Nov. 1.

“I’ve heard that David Janiec is going to bring a wealth of expertise, but I’m also delighted that we will be able to keep Scott O’Neil,” said Suver.

Both the CLA and the EDC will be announcing new board memberships, goals and opportunities for public participation in the coming weeks. Watch the News Review for additional information.

Story First Published: 2017-09-15