‘Where are we going?’

Outlook conference kicks off dialogue on future of community, base

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

‘Where are we going?’“I am particularly excited about this year’s Economic Outlook Conference,” said Scott O’Neil, who will be presenting a briefing this year on behalf of IWV Economic Development Corp. He also serves on the EOC steering committee.

“The agenda is very future-focused. What I’m hoping for is an open dialogue on where we are as a community and where we want to go from here.”

Each year the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce brings together elected officials, employers and leaders of China Lake and other local industry. This year’s event will be held Thursday, Feb. 28, at the Kerr McGee Center.

“There is always a lot of good information presented, but I think it will be especially pertinent this year,” said O’Neil. “The timing is really good because that’s the same week the Navy and the city will be kicking off the dialogue with industry for China Lake reconstruction. This is going to be an incredible opportunity for our town, and we want to make sure we are poised to benefit not just in the next year or two, but well into the future.”

Among the topics for discussion will be the first glimpse into the Buxton report — which leverages data mining to build insight into the local spending, travel and other habits of consumers.

“I believe this will identify some of the opportunities in our local commercial sector. We have never really seen data to support more analytical decision-making into assessing and addressing our economic needs.”

Carole Vaughn will give a report on behalf of the Ridgecrest Area Association of Realtors, which is expected to address the challenges and opportunities in the local real-estate market.

Dr. David Ostash will also speak from the perspective of the Sierra Sands Unified School District. “Dave is such a forward thinker,” said O’Neil. “I’m always excited about what he has to say. I know there are some issues regarding modernizing our infrastructure and other challenges facing the school district. It will be good to hear an overview.”

Dr. Mark Schneipp of the California Economic Forecast, last year’s popular keynote speaker, will return this year with more detailed information about the city and region.

“He did a pretty good job at the last conference, but in the last year he has been able to gather more information, which can be tailored to our community. I’m excited to see what he’s going to present,” said O’Neil.

“I think the discussion we really need to have, as a community, is what do we want our future to look like? Where are we now, and where do we want to go from here?”

O’Neil said that the anticipated $4-billion investment in the infrastructure at the Naval Air Weapons Station, which will aid in the recovery following damages from last year’s historic earthquake sequence, will make China Lake the most modern lab in the country.

“What does that mean? People are going to want to come here to work, to test, to live. So what are we doing as a community to make sure that we can recruit and retain those people? What sort of a community do we need to come? What kind of investment of time, money and energy — and deliberate planning — will it take to build that?

The conference runs from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., but doors open at 7 a.m. for networking opportunities with Business Expo vendors and other attendees.

Tickets are available from the chamber for $40 per member or $45 per guest. Table reservations are also available. Call 760-375-8331.

“This is a great opportunity for anyone to get a summary of information,” said O’Neil.

“But we don’t just need briefings, we need the dialogue at the podium to trickle down to the rest of the attendees and from there to the grassroots level of the community. Our future as residents is something that should interest and concern all of us.”

Pictured: Scott O'Neil, executive director of IWV Economic Development Corp., during a previous conference. — News Review file photo

Story First Published: 2020-02-21