Editor’s note: Longtime Madera County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Bobby Kahn says the new North Fork casino, once open, will bring large numbers from outside the county to Madera County to gamble and have a good time.
“Gambling will result in a critical mass of new people here. It will bring people into the community in a fashion we’ve never seen before,” Kahn said. “You’re going to have people from the Bay Area and from the coast and from other areas coming into Madera from others for the purpose of visiting the casino — and probably casinos. It’s probable they’ll visit the North Fork casino, and then go up to the Chukchansi facility, and then on to Table Mountain. In talking to people in the casino business, that’s how people tend to go. They like to go from one casino to the other, and they kind of make an outing out of it, or a mini-vacation or trip.
“It’s going to bring an element here that I know the City of Madera, and actually the region — the City of Chowchilla and the county hasn’t seen before because you’re going to have that flux from the outside.
“That’s something they always preach in economic development, which is to try to get money from the outside to be spent inside your community. I think that casino will bring that element here in a big way.
“I think what else it’s going to do is to create a new synergy in that area of town. During the strong economic times, you saw a lot of people focused on that Avenue 17 corridor.”
Kahn said three sizable developments were underway along Avenue 17 when the economy soured in 2008. He said the Zellman development, which would have been on the northeast corner of the intersection of Avenue 17 and State Route 99 would have been the biggest, and “is fully entitled."
“The economy just crashed at the wrong time. They still own it, and it’s still viable as a retail center.”
He said Zellman is financially strong and would be able to push the project forward, but may have lost interest.
“At some point in time, they may sell it, even if they had to sell it at a loss, just to get it off their books.”
He said Target, the largest tenant, backed out of the Zellman project, and when that happened, so did other tenants leave. However, he also said that when the new casino is built, interest in the Avenue 17 corridor may revive.
Tomorrow: Kahn talks about how Madera and Madera County can best capture the benefits of the new tourism economy the North Fork casino is likely to bring to the Valley.