Conference offers updates, network opportunities

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Conference offers updates, network opportunitiesFor more than two decades community leaders have gathered for the annual IWV Outlook Conference to hear updates on current economic trends and opportunities and mingle with some of the most engaged community leaders.

The Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with its sponsors, will once again stage the conference on Thursday, Feb. 27, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Kerr McGee Center.

In addition to sound bytes from Mayor Peggy Breeden, Supervisor Mick Gleason, China Lake officials and other leaders in education, real estate and economic development, economist Dr. Mark Schniepp will return to give a forecast on the state economy. His report this year will include more local information, said a chamber spokesperson.

Doors open at 7 a.m. for networking, with local venders in the Business Expo taking advantage of face time with key stakeholders in the valley.

“I feel there is great value in attending this year, from an information-gathering perspective and from a business-promotion perspective,” said Deidre Patin, owner of Coldwell Banker Best Realty. “Due to the earthquake rebuild at China Lake and the overwhelmingly hot housing market we’ve experienced this past year, I anticipate many people from out of the area will either be in attendance or will be following up on what is presented this year.”

The real estate market has been identified as a key component of building and sustaining viable economic growth. “We want to show that we are interested, involved and ready to act when it comes to smartly growing our community,” said Patin.

“The 2019 earthquakes, while traumatizing and damaging, inadvertently created a unique, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we need to seize this time wisely.”

Patin noted that she is also interested in hearing the forecast from elements of the community. “I’m also excited to hear the economic plan to possibly bring other types of industry to the valley so we are not 100-percent dependent on the ebb and flow of the Navy.”

Tera Moorehead, director of community outreach at Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, said that she loves the opportunity to connect with the community, “providing a space for people to stop by and give input and questions.

“As the largest private employer in town, the hospital is instrumental to the city’s growth and development. Our success, I believe, comes from connecting to our community and keeping our community as our focus.”

Moorehead said she also appreciates the updates shared at the conference. “I learn some really insightful information about how amazing our community is. Even though I grew up here, I feel like I walk away learning something new about our community,” she said.

“I also learn about some of the struggles we face. We are a unique community with obstacles many other places don’t have to tackle, and I feel like this conference is about coming together as a whole to address these issues to make Ridgecrest even better and stronger.”

Debbie Benson is another regular attendee, both as a member of the chamber board and as director of the Maturango Museum.

“I feel like, when I walk into that conference, I know that everyone in the room is either someone I know, or someonet I should know. Everyone who attends is engaged in and working on behalf of our community.”

Unlike many local businesses, most of the museum’s clientele are visitors to the IWV, Benson said.

“We are right in the middle of town, but people tell me all the time they only know us from driving past us on China Lake Boulevard.

“For me, I have an opportunity to remind people that we are not just a place to drive past. Park your car, walk around the garden, come inside!

“It’s also a good opportunity to touch base, connect with people,” she said. “I always learn things at the conference that help us fulfill our mission.”

This year she is particularly interested in hearing updates about the base and the real estate market and about how the changes in the last year might continue to impact the local population.

“After the earthquakes, there was a marked shift in people’s donatable income. The money a lot of people typically give to charities was used to fix their homes,” said Benson.

“To have an event that gives us a bigger context — that actually focuses on where we are going and what we are doing to build our economy — is very important for small businesses. We all need to know this stuff.”

Tickets, expo booths and sponsorships are still available. Call the chamber at 760-375-8331.

Pictured: Hundreds of attendees gather at a previous IWV Outlook Conference to hear updates from and net work with community leaders. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-02-14