By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
"U.S. News and World Report" recently dubbed Bakersfield among the 10 worst cities in the nation for finding a job. Kern County's unemployment rate was 14.5 percent in December, making the average for all of last year 15.2 percent, according to the California Employment Development Department.
Our question: What will it take to bring more jobs to Kern County?
Responses may have been edited for length or clarity.
In order to bring more jobs to our community, Kern County needs more employers. This is an obvious answer to our high unemployment challenges, but as we know, the "how" is a little more complicated. While the negative aspects (air pollution, low education levels, etc.) of our community tend to grab most outside media attention, we know Kern County has a lot to offer.
Our sense of community, strong values and our pro-business attitude should attract any employer that is looking to set up shop in the challenging business environment we call California. However, a number of companies still overlook us. This brings us to the "how." How can we improve our image and show the value of our community to prospective employers?
We need to do more to spotlight what makes Kern County a great place to do business. One way we can do this is by showing our ongoing support for organizations such as the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce and KEDC, which do a great job enlightening outside businesses about the positive aspects of our community.
While good P.R. will help grab the attention of prospective employers, we also need to demonstrate the value of our workforce. We need to evaluate how we are preparing our workforce and implement any changes that could help shore up skill levels in our community.
As for the local government, I would like to see aggressive actions that will help foster a business-friendly island within our state. I would like to see local government establish more enterprise zones, create incentives to encourage growth of existing local businesses, streamline permitting processes, and adopt a partnership approach.
-- Ojay McKendry, Partner, Snelling Staffing Service
Kern County is fast becoming recognized as a top area for business relocation and expansion activity. There are several key components that make Kern County attractive during the recruitment process. Because of our strategic location, we are able to market ourselves as part of the Southern California region -- the 15th largest economy in the world.
As residential and commercial growth in the L.A. basin continues, industrial sector companies are finding it necessary to expand or relocate to the outer reaches of the metropolitan area, which places us as their next option. With four-hour accessibility to 90 percent of the state's population and robust freight mobility corridors, logistics is a key part of who we are.
We are fortunate to have the support from our county leaders in promoting a pro-business environment that runs laps around other areas of the state. Along with some of the recession-proof aspects of the region's economy, especially in the agriculture and energy industries, we have the opportunity to share and be proud of who we are and what we do here in Kern County.
Finally, in today's economy we can highlight the relative affordability of the county for businesses and families.
With all of the qualities we have in Kern County and the continued support for public/private partnerships like Kern EDC, Kern County will remain a viable choice for business despite the uncertainties of the state's regulatory and political environment. And the more than 500 logistics-related jobs created within the last six months are testament to the county's success in creating new jobs.
-- Melinda Brown , director of business development, Kern Economic Development Corp.
California continues to have a very challenging climate for expanding economic growth and employment. To create more jobs in Kern County, we need the right mix of resources and policies that provide the certainty businesses need to invest capital in Kern County.
While the county continues to be plagued with unemployment above the state and national average, we must set our focus on training and educating the workforce that our businesses and key industries need. For example, we are poised to benefit from the exponential growth of the renewable energy sector, and that is why programs like the Kern Community College District's Clean Energy Center training courses are important in providing the workforce for that growing industry. However, we can't forget the energy mainstays we have in Kern County -- oil and gas. The business and education community must remain committed to expanding the level of math and science programs in our educational institutions, especially with advocacy for a school of engineering at Cal State Bakersfield. Finally, CSUB has shown great ingenuity with the recent creation of the ag-business bachelor's degree.
In the area of policy, we must encourage our state and local governments to provide incentives and create policies that target economic growth and help bring industries and corporations to our area. Although new jobs should be created in the private sector, government plays a vital role in creating an environment for job creation. We encourage our citizens to buy local; we should encourage our local governments to do the same, such as by awarding contracts to locals.
-- Jay Tamsi, President/CEO, Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce