Coastal Voices: Some hopeful economic signs

By Roger Gitlin September 09, 2011 11:56 am

I am not a big fan of Sacramento lawmakers or Governor Brown. The omnipresence of state government, its bureaucracy, and endless list of A-Z agencies and commissions overseeing every aspect of our lives has left its dark imprint on California’s gloomy economy.

Tuesday’s Triplicate news article, however, gave me something to be hopeful about.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly and Senate are actually making subtle overtures to work with business and ameliorate the onerous regulatory bureaucracy that plagues the Golden State.

As a first of hopefully many such peace offerings toward business, Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla introduced SB 292 to streamline the process to reduce intimidating environmental bureaucracy with the intended goal of building a new football stadium near Staples Center.

Assembly Speaker John Perez is introducing the same bill in the lower House. I am rendered almost speechless by this out-of-character display of love for business by the liberals. I remain cautiously optimistic the power brokers in Sacramento will help to put a significant dent in the 12.4 percent statewide unemployment figure.

Dennis Mullins, economist for the North Coast Region of the Employment Development Department in Eureka, reports Del Norte County’s July 2011 jobless rate is a humbling 14.5 percent. This ranks Del Norte 36th out of 58 counties.

A side note on the Del Norte unemployment figure: Certificated and classified staff members within the Del Norte Unified School District and the Del Norte County Office of Education are now returning to work. Technically, 410 employees were considered “unemployed” over the summer months. Those employees are back to work.

There is good news on the horizon for Del Norte County’s sagging economy.

Four major projects are on the table and each will create substantial employment. Each will pump plenty of cash into our local economy.

The Smith River gymnasium contract will be awarded soon. The estimated contract will be about $3 million. While it would wonderful for the Del Norte School Board to announce a local company will receive the contract, local companies who can do the job are scarce. Nonetheless, the Del Norte economy would realize a huge boost of local jobs and dollars pumped into housing and shopping.

The Crescent City Harbor continues to rebuild. Harbormaster Richard Young is busy meeting contractors and federal and state agencies as he oversees the rebuilding of the harbor. It’s reported there’s at least $38 million coming into Del Norte County over the next two years creating lots of employment and money to spend in Crescent City.

As I write this commentary, the barge has arrived and equipment from the Dutra Company is en route to dredge and remove sediments. Unfortunately, there is no local dump location creating yet additional employment. The dredged remains will be transported to Humboldt County for disposal.

The expansion of Walmart to double its current 90,000 square feet will create plenty of construction jobs. An estimated 50 percent growth of its Crescent City permanent employment base is anticipated.

Terminal replacement at Jack McNamara Field is also on the horizon. The budget to rebuild the antiquated Del Norte County Airport terminal is between $1-2 million.

I am encouraged by the county’s short and long term economic prospects.

Meanwhile, let’s pray for a long Indian summer.

Roger Gitlin is a member of the Del Norte County Tea Party, retired teacher, and resident of Crescent City.