As they turn from controlling growth to creating jobs, cities and counties are discovering that economic developmentis not as simple a task as it appears to be.
It takes a sustained and disciplined effort — a laser-likefocus on industrial and commercial areas of strength and ahigh degree of transparency — to put the pieces together.
Oxnard’s Economic Development Corporation, or EDCO, seemed to have all those pieces when it was formedmore than a decade ago. It relied on a unique collaborationbetween business leaders and government to help revitalize Oxnard’s decaying city center.
And it certainly is true that under the EDCO banner therehave been a number of successes — agribusinesses such asGills Onions have successfully expanded and the city’s Heritage Square retail district has seen a renaissance with newrestaurants and a movie theater.
But recent revelations and board defections have underscoredthe need for a major revamp at one of the region’s oldereco-devo organizations. Sloppy accounting for entertainment expenses, lack of strong board oversight and questionsabout how the region’s largest city managed its relationshipwith EDCO have hit the press.
Against a backdrop of a major criminal probe into contractingin Oxnard and Gov. Jerry Brown’s assault on redevelopmentagencies, EDCO’s problems put both the city, the EDCO board and President Steve Kinney in an unflattering position.But it also would be wrong for Oxnard to abandon itseconomic development efforts.
The city is too big and tooimportant to the region’s economy to end its job-creation effort.
Oxnard has vast resources of land, capital and workersthat make it a very attractive spot for a relocating company. Along with the Santa Maria Valley, it is one of the very few places in the coastal zone that actively wants to grow new and existing businesses and that offers affordable housing to middle-class and working families.
If it is going to continue in its present form, EDCO mustrevamp its oversight, attract new board members and cleanup its financial reporting procedures. Or it can undergo aname change, a personnel change or an organizational restructuring.
But Oxnard should not walk away from economic development as a civic goal. As the economy recovers from itsdeepest recession in decades, Oxnard has a vital role to playin California’s economic future.
It should not miss a chanceto play that role and, in the process, greatly enrich a newgeneration of entrepreneurs and business owners.