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Message from the CEO – July 2014 

Cecil Russell

Chamber President & CEO
Cecil Russell

We have celebrated our fascination and love of all things Graffiti this last month with the largest classic car parade in the last 16 years. Many thanks to the North Modesto Kiwanis for their continued passion and hard work to stage this event, and to the City of Modesto to allow the parade to return to McHenry – all the way up to Orangeburg! This helped accommodate the 1100 cars that participated. The comments from all of the businesses along the parade route have been very positive, with many businesses hosting food and beverages for their patrons. There is already talk of the possibility of extending the route even further up McHenry.

I had the pleasure of attending the performance of “The Hit Men” at the Gallo Center during Graffiti weekend. It was a first rate performance by original musicians that performed two hours of hits from the fifty’s and sixty’s. Thank you to Lynn and the management of the Gallo Center for bringing top rated talent to Modesto. Speaking of great talent, put on your calendar “Valley’s Got Talent”, scheduled for August 29th and 30th at the Gallo Center. This is a not-to-be missed assortment of great local talent.

We owe Chris Murphy a big thank you for his never ending passion to memorialize our Graffiti heritage. The instillation of the ten concrete inserts honoring the Modesto legends of Graffiti with Candy Clark and Bo Hopkins (stars of the movie “American Graffiti”) was a great success. This is important to our city, not only because it helps reinforce our image of an All American city, but also has a very positive impact on our economy. The next large event coming to Modesto is the Inaugural Modesto Grand Prix SuperKart races. Approximately 300 drivers will race through downtown on August 1st, 2nd and 3rd. This event is presented by Save Mart Supermarkets; however there are many other sponsorship levels still available through the City of Modesto. If you are interested, please contact Andy Johnson at 209-571-5582 or email ajohnson@modestogov.com. This event will be an instant crowd pleaser, a huge draw to our city and will provide a huge economic impact to our city.

The main articles of this edition of Progress deal with the subject of tourism and its importance to our economy. Keith Boggs with the Chief Executive Office of the County and Jennifer Mullins with the Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureau are contributors for these articles.

We want to congratulate all of the winners in our recent election. All of the Divirsitycandidates endorsed by the Modesto Chamber easily won re-election. Congratulations to Supervisor Dick Monteith, Sheriff-Coroner Adam Christianson, District Attorney Birgit Fladager, and Assessor Don Gaekle. We also want to congratulate Supervisor Terry Withrow on his successful re-election. We have had the pleasure to meet and interact with our new Interim City Manager Jim Holgersson. We welcome him and his fresh perspectives. He brings years of experience to Modesto. The Chamber Board of Directors and our Economic Development Committee have had a number of meetings with Jim. He has experience with economic development and we look forward to working with Jim to put his experience to work for Modesto.

As we have mentioned in the last number of articles, we need to bring jobs to our community to solve our chronic unemployment. We can only do this by working together with the city and county to develop sites for the manufacturing, warehousing and distribution businesses that would like to locate in our area. Our mantra is jobs, jobs, jobs. Only jobs will provide us a Pathway to Prosperity. On a positive note, last month 2000 students graduated from California State University Stanislaus, as well as 1500 students from Modesto Junior College, approximately 1000 from each of our local Modesto City High Schools and additional students from our local private high schools. Students from the private colleges are also graduating every semester. With the exception of those going on to further their education or enhance their degrees, most are ready to join the work force.

The question that should concern us is where are these students going to find jobs? This should be a huge concern to parents, business leaders, and elected officials. Where are these graduates and the currently unemployed going to find work? Will they have to leave the city, county or state to find work? The colleges are doing their job to educate; but as students graduate each year, the problem of local unemployment will continue to compound if we don’t find solutions that help create jobs. We continue to praise our agriculture heritage and support them for being the catalyst that helps drive our economy, but even this segment of our economy has lost about 8% of their jobs as their productivity has grown. We need to diversify the types of jobs available in our area to truly turn-around our staggering unemployment numbers.

We need to all work together – agriculture, education, business and our elected officials – to work as one to find solutions to our chronic unemployment or we all stand to lose. Losing should and cannot be an option; we need to improve the quality of life for all in our community.

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