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Message from the CEO – November 2014 

Cecil Russell

Chamber CEO,
Cecil Russell

It is hard to believe that we are almost to the end of 2014. This year has gone very fast, and we still have much to accomplish. Our economy in this region is still very slow to recover with way too many people without jobs. We will need to work together with local elected officials, our state elected officials, and our local congressman to overcome the many challenges facing our economy. Your Modesto Chamber of Commerce will continue to promote jobs and job creation to benefit the community.

Our annual State of the Region event held on October 22nd and shed light on local businesses that would like to expand and create more jobs. David White reviewed the data that the Stanislaus Business Alliance has gathered over the last year. This information will help guide all of us in a more strategic direction to help local businesses grow. Congressman Denham confirmed his support to help bring federal assistance and dollars to our region. Matt Machado Director of Public Works, outlined the plans for the improvement of Highway 132. When completed, the project will make transportation between Modesto and Interstate 5 safer, and it will also move supplies and products for our local businesses, manufacturing, and distribution industries much more efficiently. Also at the event, Craig Lewis, the Chairman of our Economic Development Committee, presided over a panel of State officials consisting of Senators Anthony Cannella and Cathleen Galgiani and State Assembly members Kristin Olsen and Adam Gray, who discussed ways to bring more economic vitality to our community.

Water continues to dominate the news in California and is particularly important to our area. I attended another meeting that focused on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensing of La Grange hydroelectric project (it has never been licensed in the last 100 years). The environmentalist groups were well represented; the business community and ratepayers were underrepresented. The discussions centered around salmon fish and their spawning in recent years. MID explained that the dam has been there for 100 years, and there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the dam has prevented spawning. In actuality the non-native fish that have been introduced to the river is the biggest threat because they are predators of the salmon eggs and fingerlings. Never-the-less, the environmentalists want more funds expended to study other solutions [in the millions of dollars] on top of additional water the environmentalists are demanding be put down the river. The farmers and all of us ratepayers will be burden with the cost of any more studies. The cost of these studies between Don Pedro and La Grange are already approaching $50 million dollars. I encourage more business professionals to attend these meeting and share your concerns with FERC.

The collaboration between the City of Modesto, Stanislaus County, the Stanislaus Business Alliance and the Modesto Chamber of Commerce continues with the announcement on October 14th that Botanics & Organics, based in the United Kingdom, will open their first operation in the United States here in Modesto. Jem Skelding, the company’s CEO, stated the main purpose of the Modesto location will be to establish relationships with producers of natural products such as grape seed, almond, and walnut oils, as well as to set up a U.S. production and distribution facility for its products. The company anticipates creating upwards of 100 jobs ranging from administrative and marketing roles to production and warehousing jobs. Attracting this type of business is a big win for our community. The collaboration and commitment to bring this new business to our area is to be applauded. The owners of the Modesto Bee building also deserves praise for working with this new company to create a flexible lease that could have long-term consequences for our downtown area.

We are also pleased that a number of additional new businesses have located in downtown Modesto in the last couple of months: Rancho Fresco Mexican Grill, Red Event Center, El Jardin Mexican Restaurant, Commonwealth Craft Pub, Tagre Law Office, Back to Normal Bodywork by Daniel, Erin Milan Salon and Spa at the DoubleTree Hotel, The Glass Guru, Vocational Coaching & Development, Rodin Ranch, and T-Cup Café. Additionally, many other downtown businesses have recently expanded or remodeled.

This is all good news for our economy. We wish all of these businesses great success.

The 15th annual Modesto Area Music Awards (MAMA) were held on October 15th at the State Theater. This annual event is the brain child of Chris Murphy to help celebrate our musical heritage and present the state of music’s impact on our community. Attendance at this event is by invitation only and was sold out. It produces great energy and showcases the best of the best music in our area. It covers all genres of music, honoring songs and songwriters, bands and music venues. It is amazing the number of music venues that now exist in our community. This event produces recognition and encouragement for all of our local musicians. In addition to giving out this year’s awards, there were many live performances. For some us older music lovers, there was a performance by Ken Whitt and the Downbeats joined by Roddy Jackson from the “Merced Bluenotes.” They did a medley of songs from the sixties that had people dancing in the aisles. Thanks to Chris Murphy for his vision and energy that helps keep the music alive and helps us recognize the economic value that music and entertainment bring to our community.

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