Your Chamber at Work
Modesto Chamber builds a Pathway to a Better Future
Why have some cities economically accelerated over the past 10 years and why have other cities declined? Has it been because some cities have more money to spend? No! At least not in this economy! Why have cities like Austin, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; Salt Lake City, Utah; San Francisco; Palo Alto; Irvine; and Plesanton economically thrived while others have not? Do you think that the cities that have thrived have common goals and are headed in the same direction? I would submit to you that they worked out their differences and focused on the most important facet of the local economy: JOBS! They have focused on their city GDP! What is our GDP over the last 10 years? Anyone want to guess?
In the Real Estate Brokerage business, I feel and deal with the effects of the economy everyday. And yet we must ask, what are we doing about adding more jobs? What are we doing to diversify our economy so that we don’t live or die based on one or two segments of the local economy? Thank goodness that we have the agricultural community as the back bone of the economy or else we could be out of business entirely. Can we count on agriculture to create double digit GDP for the entire community in the future? What are we doing about our brain drain in Modesto? Why do we have children that obtain a good education from our schools and then leave the area and not come back? (I should know. We have 8 children that have been educated here and only one still resides in the area). What upside potential for advanced job placement is available? Are we only destined to be a “bedroom community” for the job centers that are outside our county? How many of you currently travel outside the county to get that upside potential? Wouldn’t you rather have that opportunity here rather than leave your children every day to commute outside the county in order to achieve that potential?
I could go on and on because I believe you are asking the same questions, maybe even more. What can we do to create a change? I believe we need to declare WAR! A war on jobs that is. Cecil Russell exposed many of us at the Chamber to a book entitled The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton, the President of Gallup (as in polls). To quote a small portion of the book, “This has to be a war on job loss, on low workplace energy, on healthcare costs, on low graduation rates, on brain drain and on community disengagement. Those things destroy cites, destroy job growth and destroy city GDP. Every city requires its own master plan that is as serious as planning for war.” The book goes on to describe the four areas a city must focus on to make a change and be a job magnet. They are as follows:
Recognize that the most important solutions are local. Weak local leaders will look to Washington for more legislation and stimulus packages and more money for R&D to solve their problems. But what they need for job creation – entrepreneurs, enterprise energy, and the leadership to put it all together – is right here at home because cities are the highest probable source of job creation. In 2009, almost half of all venture capital money spent in America went to four cities: New York, Palo Alto, Seattle, and Sunnyvale. So the obvious question is: Why does the Bay Area create so much economic power and not Detroit? Both have the same federal government. They work under the same laws and same rules. But, San Francisco and Silicon Valley have created a culture that responds to innovation and creates business models like no other place on Earth. Cities that do this become a beacon for the most talented people in the world.
Have your whole city wage a war for jobs. Everybody in charge of anything needs to focus on job creation. If they divert their attention, vote them out. Be ruthless. If the bike path doesn’t have anything to do with job creation, there is no bike path. If rezoning improves the jobs outlook, rezone. But not just any job will do – you want good jobs. The jobs war is won by knowledge jobs. Aim everything at those. The global economy is moving to the knowledge worker. You can build a slaughterhouse in your city, but that can’t be the leading job strategy. Good jobs are created by entrepreneurs working with innovators creating a winning business model. The jobs war is what should get city leaders up in the morning, what they should work on all day, and what should keep them from getting to sleep at night.
Align efforts citywide. Every city needs a team to work on the alignment, focus, and strategies that put all businesses and local institutions of absolutely every kind on the same page. Meanwhile, the whole city has to be participating, highly coordinated, and working from the same playbook to win.
Don’t allow your local constituencies to look to Washington. Washington has something for you that is unsustainable or even worse, unhealthy. Free money eventually makes you more dependent. Free money, entitlements, more bureaucracy, less of your control – all these things make individual initiative, meritocracy, and free enterprise weaker and less competitive. To re-energize, to strike lighting on your city’s GDP growth, it’s brain gain, it’s quality job creation more than anything else. You have to jump-start your city yourself.
As a local businessman, I am challenging every business person in this community to rise to the occasion! If you like the results you are getting in your business, then don’t bother doing anything more. Obviously you are in a place of abundance and don’t need any more help to increase your business. If you want a better future for you and your children, join the conversation.
We all need to come together to design a better future. Call the Chamber and offer your support. We all have to create a common vision of what we want our future to be. Things will not be any different in the future unless we come together to make it different. It is our fault if it doesn’t change. We are in charge of our future, the outside forces are not!
From the book again, “Failing the jobs war will be easy, and winning will be hard.” Do you want to help make a difference and make the future better than the past? Please come and help!
Your Chamber has worked hard to start this ball moving down the field and is collaborating on one of the first phases of creating more jobs and a new vision for the future. Our efforts are focused around the City of Modesto General Plan which projects into the future. We want our land use policies and transportation corridors to be designed in order to move “goods and services” for jobs. Keep your eye out for discussions concerning this General Plan update. This is only a start to creating a different vision and future for our community.