Elected officials weigh in at Outlook Conference

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Among the leaders from defense, industry and community, attendees at the IWV Economic Outlook Conference heard elected officials give their take on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, State Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove and Assemblyman Vince Fong each greeted visitors in prerecorded videos before proceeding to highlight developments on the federal and state levels — which include efforts to increase water availability to the Central Valley, earthquake recovery support to the IWV and relief to taxpayers in an increasingly unaffordable state.

Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason said that it is important for residents of the Indian Wells Valley to understand how the county budget impacts them.

By June the administration will have completed its spending mitigation plan to rebound from the disastrous oil crash in 2014 — which saw county revenues decline some $45 million when oil dropped from $100 a barrel to $35 a barrel. That crisis was managed concurrently with a restructuring to stop a $36-million annual bleed at Kern Medical Center.

The fiscal overhaul also included managed attrition to reduce hires and increase staff efficiency and aggressive recruitment of diversified industries.

“You have a leaner, meaner Kern County,” said Gleason.

Although oil has historically been the largest source of revenue generation in the county, Kern is also now leading the state in alternative-energy generation — including in wind and solar.

“If [the state] would get on that train, and follow us, they would get to a cleaner, greener California.”

Mayor Peggy Breeden said that although fewer fees were paid in 2019, building permits and valuations were up in the city last year.

She pointed to the recent approval and impending construction of a casino as one of the economic achievements in the past year. Three more fast-casual restaurants are anticipated to come into the Walmart complex, a new movie theater, bowling alley and fast casual development is coming in the next few years, two housing tracts are under development and an affordable apartment complex was just approved.

Another big driver for local economic opportunity, she said, is the $3-billion rebuild of China Lake — which sustained critical damage in the back-to-back earthquakes last summer.

Watch continuing conference coverage to hear from other cities and leaders in local real estate, education and economic development.

Story First Published: 2020-03-13