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By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
Now that Crescent City's timber and fishing industries have waned, what is the area to do and more importantly, when is the right time to do something?
Those key questions will be parsed into as many answers as there are attendees at a five-day series of stakeholder meetings that begin today and last through Monday.
Australian economics consultant David Beurle will be in town to help Crescent City's leaders determine if now is the right time to launch the area's future.
"It's good to have someone from the outside look in," said Chris How-ard, Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber president. "Sometimes people like that are more honest, they open up more."
Besides, Howard added, the Northcoast is Beurle's first stop and he'll have a day to recover from his long Wednesday flight from Down Under.
Beurle is the founder and managing director of Innovative Leadership, a company that specializes in rural leadership and innovative rural community economic development.
He has the credentials to underscore that description in bold, black ink, too.
Among other achievements, he was principle adviser to the Australian minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and for one year served with the minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.
His schedule here is daunting: 90 minute meetings with stakeholder groups or key institutions from across the county beginning at 7 a.m. and ending 14 hours later at 9 p.m.
From the input he gleans, Beurle will advise Howard and his partners at the Humboldt Area Foundation about whether people here are ready to collaborate on economic development.
"He often sees scattered leadership," said Howard, adding that Beurle illustrates that with a graphic of arrows going in all directions. "A lot of the community leaders feel we are ready to go forward. We need to test the waters."
Howard traces the recent evolution of this area's economy: coming from a leadership "heavy to" timber and fishing then making a quick transition to preservation mode.
"Our industries dried up, but our leadership was never replaced," he said.
Local civic leaders are not unaware of the situation. They imported two speakers, from Tupelo, Miss., during 2003-04. One had authored a book about Tupelo's success. But nothing was built from the input.
"There was not someone here to make it happen, but David will provide the organization we didn't have before," said Jay Freeman, vice president Controller of Hambro Forest Products Inc. and past chamber president. "Because people were very energetic then, I think they will be more aligned this time."
Crescent City managing partner of Cholwell, Benz Kevin Hartwick, who also remembers the Tupelo visits, agreed that it may take awhile for things to take traction in a community.
"In most communities, there's a point where things begin, it comes down to people working together," Hartwick said. "I think some of that has happened since then, people are working together more than ever."
Hartwick thinks that "now is the time for things to happen."
This time, said Howard, things will be different.
"He (Beurle) will be here to hold our hands through the process," Howard said. "Generally this is a three-year project, so having a community partner (the Humboldt Area Foundation) is critical and it takes a big weight off our shoulders."
Beurle's visit is the first of three economic-oriented events happening in Crescent City. The next is an Economic Summit scheduled March 24.
It will feature Connie London of the Heart of Wisconsin project. It, too, has worked with Beurle and has been successful in re-establishing that area's rural economy.
The third event, a Community Celebration, will toast the work of the Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority and the area's Council of Economic Advisors on March 31.
"It makes sense for the chamber to help celebrate the success of the group that is maintaining their businesses," Howard said. "Once the venues develop, we'll have a strong link to the outside world."
For now, he said, "We're going to see what's out there."
Among the groups economic consultant David Beurle is meeting with are:
Aviation Advisory Committee
College of the Redwoods, Del Norte
Council of Economic Advisors
Crescent City administrators
Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of
Del Norte High School leadership class
Del Norte Unified School District
Elk Valley Rancheria
Health and Human Services Dept.
Lily bulb growers
Rural Human Services
Smith River Rancheria