Today continues the conversation with Jim Taubert, executive director of the successor agency to the former Madera Redevelopment Agency.
“We’ve got to have a strategy to build on the casino and on high-speed rail.”
“What I would say is that you should sell Madera County as a destination, and not just for gambling. In addition to gambling you can go wine-tasting, you can taste a variety of olive oils, you can go to Yosemite. But gambling is just one of many things there are to do in Madera.
“I think that goes along with Rick Farinelli’s idea on Madera County becoming a sports destination. All three of my kids were active in travel ball ... The ones that were held in Vegas attracted everybody. If we got serious about sports as a development strategy, we would be known as a destination for more than just one activity.”
“If we hang our hat on just the casino or just high-speed rail construction, I don’t think it’s going to create long-term wealth.”
He said education can be a form of economic development. “Many young people who have grown up in Madera have left the city due to lack of opportunity. Their parents are still here, but their kids aren’t.
“In the valley, the most successful model for reversing that is the Clovis model. They decided long ago that regardless of anything else, they were going to build their future on having the best education system in the area. They decided their education system would be their economic engine. That’s why they don’t build business parks, they do technology parks. But it’s all based on using Clovis Unified School District as the engine that drives the long-range economy.
“The problem with Madera is our self-esteem isn’t real good right now. With the schools, it’s been the idea that we’re too poor to be too good, or that we’re too brown to be good. That’s not true. Economics, social status and ethnicity don’t have anything to do with your ability to learn. But if you set your bar too low, and you meet it, you get what you go for. Clovis, on the other hand, shoots for the stars. I just think it has to do with community self-esteem.
“There have been periods of time, driven by a variety of factors, when we raised our goals. We said we no longer were going to accept mediocrity. But the periods weren’t sustained. We had our self-confidence going, and then, boom, someone gives us a dirty look, and we go, ‘Oh, that’s right, we’re Madera’.
“There’s some good ideas out there. Now let’s try to package them. Let’s put a program together where people start talking to one another. Our graffiti collaborative is a model where people are talking to each other, and it’s working. I think economic development is the same way. We’ve got a piece here and a piece there, but nobody’s working together. Nobody’s pulling on the rope. In times like this, though, to compete, we’ve all got to be working together. But we don’t have a plan in place. That has to change.
Our next interview, after a Monday break, will be with Madera District Chamber of Commerce President Debi Bray.