This begins a conversation with Jim Taubert, executive director of the successor agency to the Madera Redevelopment Agency, which fell in 2011 to Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget ax.
“Back in 1983 or ’84, I started doing economic development for the county. One of the first things we did was create a separate tourism council. Back then it was called the Industrial Development Commission. We created a separate tourism council and a separate film commission, and we were all intertwined, because we all needed to know what everybody else was doing.
“Back then, we had a governor who became an ex-governor, named Jerry Brown. When he left office, because of years of cutting, cutting, cutting, Gov. George Deukmejian came on, and the economy went crazy. He decided the Central Valley needed to be a priority, and created what was called the Rural Renaissance Program. Through that, we were able to get hundreds of thousands of dollars for infrastructure for our business parks. He also created the Enterprise Zones, and we were one of the first 15 Enterprise Zones for the state of California. Back then, the state was pushing them hard.
“Under Jerry Brown, the state Commerce Department was three people. Deukmejian came on and created a major department out of it, and it had several hundred people.
“The Enterprise Zone back then — a lot of our prospects came from the State of California. A lot of people were coming from out of state. They’d say, ‘We first want to look at your Enterprise Zones.’ So I think there are 40 Enterprise Zones now.
“Why did we lose our Enterprise Zone? It depends on whom you talk to. Back when I was doing this, Shirley Driggs (now a member of the Madera Planning Commission) was the Enterprise Zone coordinator. I was having Shirley work with existing businesses. She eventually warned that if something didn’t happen, we were in danger of losing our Enterprise Zone status. I’m actually not sure what happened.”
Taubert said when Gray Davis was governor, SB 975 was passed, a bill still in effect that limits how public agencies can participate in redevelopment projects. The bill, also known as the prevailing wage act, is triggered whenever a public agency, such a redevelopment agency, participates in a project. In Madera, the prevailing wage is established in San Francisco, where wages are relatively high, meaning public agencies have a difficult time participating in private projects, which creates another roadblock to development.
Next: Taubert conversation continues.