In the late 1990s, I remember hearing all the negative talk going on around town. I also remember hearing that the situation will never change, there's no money in this town and that people can't come together. I want to highlight some areas that have changed. The Home Depot has opened its doors, hiring over 100 people. Look at what Matt Fearing and his crew have done with Front Street Plaza. Now I see them working with Dan Harrison and taking on the Square Deal property. Although it is early, congratulations on taking that next step, it really is inspiring to see some changes there.
The focus on doctor recruitment has had success in bringing doctors to the area. And look at our new wellness center on Northcrest and Washington. We also have the new Sutter Coast Community Clinic in operation and growing its clientele. The fairgrounds are working on their beautification projects and just completed another successful fair, concert, rodeo and Jr. Livestock Auction. This year was a first for the Tall Ships Festival which helped to bring some money into the community and the list of events and projects just keeps growing.
The airport has increased their emplanements and has almost completed its new building for the fire engine. The city is working on improving the sewer treatment facility and Charter is upgrading its system with increased bandwidth. Not everything is so positive, U.S. Hwys. 101 and 199 still need improvement, but I know we have some very smart and dedicated people working on those projects. I'm sure they can use our support in making the necessary improvements on our local roads.
The school district has a great leadership program for our kids and the high school just hired a new principal and vice principal who both believe in vocational education for our youth. While I'm a firm believer in higher education, college is not for everyone. I think we need to prepare our youth for the real world, whether through college, vocational training in some industry trade, or to go into the military.
Two more things need mentioning, the Visitors Bureau and the new "Action Del Norte," our community progress initiative. The Visitors Bureau has started its Web site, generated some advertising and hosted some travel writers covering our beautiful part of the world. Their efforts are already generating revenue for our local businesses. This is just the beginning. If our local businesses and government use this increased revenue by reinvesting back into this community, then we will definitely improve our local economy for this and future generations.
The other item is "Action Del Norte," as it is now called. I think this will be a great thing for this community. It is focused on the long-term success, not just tomorrow. It helps bring everyone together towards a common vision and goal, to focus our efforts as well as better utilize our limited resources. If we all accept the idea that we don't have to agree on everything, we at least need to agree on a few core concepts in improving our community, then we can continue to break free from the barriers of the past.
It has always been my personal belief that if I'm not changing to meet tomorrow's needs, then time is no longer on my side. Time is now against me as I wait for something to happen. It is along these lines that I believe we are not independent from one another's efforts. Our successes and/or failures have an impact on one another, whether we like it or not. If our local government agencies, schools, and businesses don't communicate, then how can they effectively manage our resources and tax dollars. The Action Del Norte Initiative will help facilitate this communication. Collecting data on our community and understanding these various components (Industry Clusters) will foster a more sustainable and successful future.
I'm not sure how this message was lost, but I think we are still a timber and fishing community. We can become more of a tourist destination while protecting our environment. And we can change the economic model in order to create a more sustainable economy to support this and future generations of our community. And we can do this together as a team, working towards the same goal.
Jay Freeman is a former president of the Crescent City-Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce.