Tourism is a major driver of the economy of the Mt. Shasta region in northern California. (Photo credit: Susan Lovenburg).
With snow-covered Mount Shasta as backdrop, members of the Siskiyou business community came together last Friday to identify their priorities for state actions to better support their local businesses. They asked for two things from Sacramento: stability and balance. “A little commonsense would go a long way,” they said.
With abundant supplies of power, water and natural resources, the region’s challenges center on getting goods to market economically, responding to a confusing and often counter-intuitive maze of state and federal regulations, and access to a well-trained workforce.
Mark Klever of Belcampo Farms said new labor laws prevent his children from being with him on his farm operation. Interns can no longer perform tasks employees usually complete. Though well-intended, he fears these regulations will result in a younger generation without the knowledge and skills to continue farming.
In addition to the need for road and rail infrastructure, Ryan Avila of FireWhat.com described the importance of good broadband access, noting the difficulties of running a tech business without it. “Imagine if Facebook had their Internet crash at 3 p.m. everyday?”
Toby Freeman, past board president of the Siskiyou EDC, ruefully related that the region could not meet the requirement to electronically submit their broadband grant application.
The group saw opportunities in recreation and tourism. “50,000 cars a day drive through our region,” said Chuck Young, co-owner of Mt. Shasta Ski Park. “We have what they want. We just need to let them know.”
Arne Hultgren, California resources manager at Roseburg Forest Products, commended the state’s priority for meeting renewable energy goals with biomass. “We can deliver this product,” he said, “but we need some help. If we can’t ship economically, it won’t happen.” He suggested the state could also reduce the cost of fighting forest fires by permitting the harvest of biomass and high-quality timber products concurrently.
Real-time audience polling identified top priorities for action: expanding career technical education and middle-skill job preparation, developing information and transportation infrastructure, and helping small businesses innovate through better access to capital.
Kathy Moxon of Redwood Coast Rural Action encouraged Shasta Cascades businesses to continue working together to develop common interests. “As a region you will find a voice that can be heard in Sacramento.”
The Regional Forum was the last of 14 held around California in advance of the first California Economic Summit which will be held in Santa Clara on May 11. The Summit will explore many of the issues that were discussed at this forum, including how we can best prepare our workforce, improve our infrastructure, encourage innovation and create a more responsive business regulatory environment.