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Message from the CEO – May 2014 

Cecil Russell

Modesto Chamber CEO
Cecil Russell

Last month I had the pleasure of attending the Winton-Ireland, Strom & Green Executive Speaker Series presented by the College of Business Administration at California State University, Stanislaus. The speaker was Dr. Arthur Laffer, an acclaimed Economist and former member of President Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board. He is known as “The Father of Supply-Side Economics.” His speech was very provocative and interesting, focusing on the current state of our national, state and local economies. He offered a common sense approach to helping solve our financial problems. I encourage business leaders and owners to attend all the future speakers in this series.

Your Chamber has been supporting, and will continue to support, Stanislaus County becoming a “self-help” county for transportation. This is a critical issue for our city and county. We have over a billion dollars of neglected roadwork that will not get repaired or replaced without this special tax. San Joaquin County has implemented this tax and they continue to fund over two billion dollars of road improvements. Stockton recently announced the groundbreaking of a $140 million road construction project that will bring jobs and help build prosperity in their city. They could not afford this project without their road tax and the matching funds from state and federal governments that come from being a self-help county. The next opportunity for our county to get the tax on the ballot and jump-start our prosperity is 2016. This is a key step to creating an economic recovery for our city and county. We will continue to rally support until we become a “self help” county.

Jobs and the economic prosperity that comes with employment will continue to be a focus of your Modesto Chamber. The chronic unemployment of our city and county were recently called out in an article that rated the 10 cites with the lowest employment rate in the country. We ranked second on the list with almost 49 percent of residents’ ages 20 to 24 who are currently without a job. This statistic shows a 10% decline in employment since the year 2000. This should be everyone’s concern, as jobs, or lack of jobs, is not only tied to economic prosperity, but also to a high crime rate and many other factors that influence our quality of life. When we have raised this issue previously, those who simply don’t understand the magnitude of this problem have at times criticized us. Our overall unemployment rate continues to rank among the highest rate in the entire Central Valley, which affects everyone in the community. We need to marshal all of our resources – elected and community leaders, educators, businesses, community groups and citizens – to help correct this chronic situation.

We are fortunate that we have dedicated leadership in our community that continue to put time and energy into coordinating LOVE MODESTO. This event drew 4,000 people together on April 5th to show their love and concern for Modesto. I enjoyed working with my family and colleagues on the many projects that improve our community. We are also encouraged by the pledge responses that “Destination LAX” received. Our hope is that the pledges raised will help establish daily jet service from Modesto to LAX airport and we thank everyone that is working on making this a reality.May_CEO_Bdy01

On April 10th your Modesto Chamber hosted the 30th annual Ag Aware Luncheon. The event was a huge success with over 400 hundred guests in attendance. The FFA student speakers were very inspiring. The featured speaker was Paula Landis, Chief of the Integrated Regional Water Management Division with the Department of Water Resources Board. The event raised a record amount for Modesto City Schools FFA scholarships. Thank you to all of the sponsors and contributors whose generosity continue to make the Ag Aware Luncheon a success.

We are thrilled to recognize the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau on celebrating its 100 year anniversary. An event celebrating this achievement is scheduled for Thursday, May 15th at the Modesto Junior College Ag Pavilion. This event will celebrate 100 years of Agricultural Heritage. This is not only an accomplishment for the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, but also a significant milestone in the Modesto area history. Agricultural business continues to be the cornerstone and the driving force of the economy in Stanislaus County.

The change in management for the city’s golf courses is off to a good start, as reported at a recent city council meeting. Kemper Golf is the new management group that has been operating Creekside and Dryden courses for the last four months. The revenue is up due to additional play and the expenses are coming under control. We applaud this positive turn-around and encourage golfers to take advantage of the new business model. The Municipal Golf Course will be introducing a new family sport called Football, which will a combination of golf and soccer, which sounds exciting! This new feature has been very successful at other golf courses, which has lead to a increase in revenue that offsets expenses. Be sure to mark your calendar for the SuperKart races coming in August. The races will bring professional road racing and a shot of adrenaline to downtown Modesto.

June is just around the corner, which is the start to the Graffiti Summer activities. The Kiwanis are making some exciting additions to the parade route. Graffiti Summer is an exciting time for us in Modesto, so make sure you and your friends and family take advantage of these summer events and activities that all improve the quality of life in our great city.

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