Continuing today is a conversation with Jim Taubert, executive director of the Successor Agency to the former Madera Redevelopment Agency:
Commenting on ideas that have been offered by others so far in this series, Taubert said, “I haven’t seen a bad idea — in fact, I’ve seen a lot of great ideas. But it just seems to me there’s a lack of concensus. Everybody has their own ideas. It might be time to get everybody who has a role in economic development talking to each other and coming up with the plan.
“For example, how would you measure whether we’re successful or not. Would we measure success by numbers of building permits of non-residential projects? Are we measured by unemployment rate? How do we know whether we’ve succeeded or failed?”
Taubert said he wasn’t sure whether the two big projects on the horizon — the planned North Fork Casino and the laying of the initial high-speed rail line — would turn out to confer the long-term benefits some see them capable of conferring.
“There are a lot of people who think the casino will be the savior of the Madera economy. There are a lot of people who think the high-speed rail is going to be the savior for the Madera economy. I don’t think by themselves either one of them will be the savior of the Madera economy. I think they’re going to create some economic action, but ...
“We went through a bit of a boom when the prisons were built, but that boom, relatively speaking, lasted a very short time. But it was a good boom. It led to Pheasant Run being developed in Chowchilla, it led to Food 4 Less and Pak N Save, but while it was a boom, it is not them in and of themselves that will keep stimulating the economy year after year. I see the casino and the high-speed rail in the same way. Sure, we’re going to get an initial thrust, but until we develop a strategy that isn’t based on a single project, but is based on balance, is based on industrial growth, is based on retail growth ... it won’t continue.
“Here’s an example: Our last boom was totally housing driven. If you really look at what happened in 2006 and 2007, and 2008, we weren’t seeing new jobs come in terms of industrial and retail, but we were seeing a lot of houses being built, with a lot of craftsmen being employed. The economy seemed to be going great guns, but it was built on a shaky foundation that was not sustainable. And when the housing stopped — well, this is the longest slump since I moved here in 1980, because it was built on a singular activity — housing.
“If we decide to say we want our economy to be based on a casino, or on high-speed rail, it’s going to be the same thing.”
Next: Taubert talks about the importance of having a strategy for long-term economic growth.