The conversation with Mayor Robert Poythress on business development continues.
“To me (low incomes of residents, skill gaps) those are some of the main things that are keeping the City of Madera from attracting businesses or retailers that could be successful here in Madera. We’ve got the corner on 99-cent stores because that’s what serves the economic base. But if were able to attract more of these six-figure-income families or two-income professional families into Madera, then that’s the real game-changer we’re looking for that would attract the kind of businesses we’re looking for — the restaurants, the clothing stores, etc.
“Now, that’s where the hard work comes in. That’s where the city, the county and the school district have to work together to upgrade the reputation of our schools. I believe that our citizens want to live in an attractive community. And we do have an attractive community. For example, we have great parks here. But we need to do something to our schools to elevate them to what I would call a distinguished level that would cause people to want to live here and not somewhere else.
“What does that mean? I think it means, No. 1, when you look at ourselves demographically, I think we need to develop a world-class vocational program. What we would do is sit down with businesses that are located here and talk to them about what skills they need in people who work for them. Then we would tailor our school system to be able to fill these positions. By doing so, I think we could go out and market ourselves to other businesses throughout the state that might want to locate here because of the educated workforce we would have.
“That’s not a quick fix. It’s a long-term process. It’s not going to be a game-changer overnight. But, it’s a road I think we need to go down. Otherwise, we’re going to continue to be the Mecca of mediocrity.
“A lot of these engineers and others who choose ... Clovis schools, for example, kind of that higher-level, magnet school technologically friendly ... and then you have to build from those schools a super school that people can hone in on where kids can develop careers as doctors, engineers ... any of those professions that require a four-year or more degree.
“Now, are those kids going to come back to Madera. Not many of them, probably, but it’s their parents who will come here, increasing our demographics in terms of income and attracting those retailers that are looking for people who are making those types of salaries.
“Than, when they need to be replaced, the next generation will come along, attracted by that super school.
“The perception that people have now is, ‘Why should I live in Madera? I don’t want to sacrifice my kids’ educations if I don’t have to.’ Their perception is that their kids are not going to get a quality education here.
“A lot of Madera teachers send their kids to parochial school because they believe they’re going to get better educations.
“For anybody to think business development is easy, they’re smoking something. We’re in California, where we’ve got compliance issues and regulation issues that most other states don’t have. We can sit around and point fingers at each other, and say we’re not doing a good job here and there, but you’ve got to look at our state.
“As for Madera, again, we’ve got to take a look at ourselves and see what it will take to get business to move here. What are they looking for? Is there a match here in Madera?
“... But whatever we do, we have to attack it with an intentional, planned effort. It’s going to take private capital ... people with money are going to have to want to come. Government can create an environment that’s friendly for businesses, but outside of that it will take a tremendous amount of private capital.”