Editor’s note: City Councilman Gary Svanda began this series Wednesday by reminding us that trying to balance the city budget by firing more people or raising taxes and fees no longer would work. Second in a series:
“Our county’s economic base is an agricultural base,” Svanda said. He is one of several local leaders who is serving in economic development groups, and is among those who have agreed to speak for this series on economic growth.
“What we do really, really well in our county is agriculture. That has sustained us and has made us viable when it comes to economics.
“But there’s an old saying that my mom taught me: ‘If you do what you’ve done, you’ll get what you’ve got.’ And I think that applies so directly to the city of Madera. We can’t just keep doing the same old things and expect that the outcome is going to be a lot different. That attitude and that approach has gotten us to what I call a structural deficit in the city and the county.
“The real solution to that is to get off the couch and go after new enterprises that can build on our agricultural base.
“A good example: Over the years, we’ve seen a wonderful Wine Trail built by our independent wineries. We have boutique wineries that are located here, with wonderful families producing outstanding wines. And tens of thousands of people come through here, not just from our area, but from other locales.
“And we have two of the most wonderful draws — draws which attracted me to this area. First is our location. From downtown Madera, you’re an hour and a half away from Yosemite. You’re two to two and a half hours away from San Francisco. You’re an hour and a half to two hours away from the Monterey Peninsula. You’re about five and a half hours away from the Mojave Desert. And yet, we can come home to a city of 60,000 and walk into the grocery store where people greet you by name.
“I don’t know why we don’t do a better job of promoting ourselves as the center of the state and the gateway to Yosemite.”
Next: Svanda talks about how the city and county should go after parallel enterprises, which build on agriculture and tourism.