The Madera County Economic Development Commission (MCEDC) held its annual State of the County Luncheon before a record crowd of 220 people March 31 at the Madera Municipal Golf Course.
Speakers included officials from Eastern Madera County, the City of Chowchilla, the City of Madera and Madera County.
Darin Soukup and Joelle Leder, representing the Eastern Madera County Chamber Alliance, led off the event describing the alliance as an official committee of the economic development commission, consisting of the Oakhurst, Coarsegold, Bass Lake and North Fork Chambers of Commerce.
The focus of the alliance is to promote Eastern Madera County, helping the area to grow and improve its economy.
They highlighted their “Work Where You Play” marketing campaign, the promotion of the State Center Community College District Measure “C” bond campaign, and continuing the fire safety drive.
Another important topic for Eastern Madera County is tree mortality caused by drought and the infestation of bark beetles. Thousands of trees are dead and more are dying at an alarming rate, while state and county leaders continue to seek solutions for this devastating problem.
Mayor Wassem Ahmed gave the overview of the City of Chowchilla. The city council is proud they can say they are on sound financial ground and continue to work diligently providing quality services to the citizens of Chowchilla. The mayor was excited to announce they have the slogan “Chowchilla-Open for Business.”
The city council has approved a number of aggressive incentive programs and want business organizations to know they are ready for all comers. Ahmed emphasized that Chowchilla is a great place to live. The council is holding town hall meetings so they can hear what people want and need.
Madera Mayor Robert Poythress linked economic development and the need for educational opportunities to bridge the skills gap that exists in Madera.
He stated the city was extremely proud of the recent opening of Freedom Industrial Park, which consists of just under 100 acres of shovel-ready industrial lots. The project was made possible through a unique partnership between the City of Madera and Span Construction and Engineering.
However, Poythress went on to say as citizens we cannot stop there.
“Madera is ground zero for skills gap,” Poythress said. “We need to partner with our local school system and State Center Community College to improve our education programs including special trade skills.”
Poythress then referred to a video with local community leaders discussing a variety of subjects from water, education, parks and recreation and public safety. He closed by adamantly stating that even with challenges, “No one is waving a white flag.”
He noted that he is proud to work with passionate people determined to develop creative solutions to the challenges.
Rick Farinelli, chairman of the Madera County Board of Supervisors, opened his remarks with thanks and praise for his fellow board members and staff, and he recognized the efforts of MCEDC in putting on the event.
Farinelli spoke about the county budget, and authorizing salary increases for staff. He was proud to announce the county received an A+ rating from Standard and Poor’s, was ranked number one for America’s strongest farming and agribusiness region and number one in the nation for new job growth in manufacturing.
Farinelli described the major housing developments underway on the Valley floor of the county, but also noted one of his major concerns is water and the impacts of the drought. He closed by stating the future of Madera County is strong, and through forward thinking the county will remain on solid ground.