The City Wall of Economic Strength

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My husband and I traveled to Croatia a few years ago and had the pleasure of visiting Dubrovnik. This lovely little ancient city has the oldest, still functioning pharmacy that opened in 1317 AD.

Just think, a business model that has lasted 700 years. Dubrovnik has many lovely buildings, but what makes it unique, are the huge walls (up to 18 feet thick) that surround the city. Within the city walls, gates are strategically set at various locations. These gates still function and can be closed if the need arises. Imagine walls that have stood for over 500 years, surviving many wars, protecting the citizens within to this day.

Although Redding does not have physical stone walls or gates like Dubrovnik, we have invisible walls and gates that provide protection for our city. Unfortunately, our city suffers from walls that have been damaged and not repaired properly. Because our walls have had foundational stones removed and not replaced, the walls have become weak and have given way. What used to provide strength has become rubble of loose stones, which now causes us to stumble. The gates, which represent safety, no longer hang straight or shut properly. In some cases, the gates are burned away.

Rising levels of crime within our city are the direct result of gates that are missing or unhinged. We all want the gates fixed, but functioning gates must be set within strong walls. If we don’t repair the walls, rehanging gates in crumbling walls will waste our time and money.

So today, I want to talk about the most strategic wall of all, the Economic Wall. Our wall was originally built on a foundation of mining, the construction of Shasta Dam and timber. These industries provided good jobs and helped other sectors within our community.

In other words, they were foundational stones that supported the rest of the local economy. When those industries disappeared or diminished in strength, we replaced them with the smaller, weaker stones of service and retail. Unfortunately, service and retail industries only recirculate money, as opposed to bringing in outside money. When the winds of an economic downturn and the earthquakes of recession come, our walls crumble quickly.

Redding’s economic wall is just now starting to recover from the great recession while many other areas improved years ago. We have a long history of boom and bust cycles for this very reason.

The Economic Wall is critical and supports other walls within the city. This wall provides sustenance and hope for our citizens, as well as funding to repair and staff the gates and other city services.

If we don’t fix this wall, there will be no monies to fix the gates, or build the other crumbled areas like homelessness, mental health, substance abuse and needed infrastructure.

I understand the frustration and anger we all feel when our car is broken into, our business robbed or vandalized, or the uneasy feeling when we are approached by vagrants in the parking lot while we are trying to get our children into their car seats. Yes, we need to fix the gates. But first, we need to ask, why are the gates broken? How do we fix them in a way they stay in place?

I want to suggest we pour our combined efforts into replacing the key foundational stones with the jobs of the future that bring in outside money and have high economic output. Let’s take a look at the technology and manufacturing sectors in Redding. The vast majority of new startups are in the tech sector. Why not survey them and find out why they chose Redding?

Let’s ask them what we need to do more or less of to help them accelerate their business. According to James Clifton, CEO of Gallup, the number one thing people want is a good job. If we can fix the Economic Wall, the gates of safety will be stronger and easier to maintain.

Julie Winter is an NP who works in family practice with Andre Van Mol,MD.  Julie is a graduate of Leadership Redding and currently serves on the Community Development Advisory Committee for the city of Redding, as well as the board of directors for Advance Redding and the Redding Area PA/NP Alliance.  She has lived in Redding since 1989 and is married with 2 children and 3 grandchildren. She is a 2016 Redding City Council candidate.

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13 Responses

  1. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    Some great suggestions there.

    I, too, LOVED Dubrovnik. I recognized the picture of the walls as soon as I opened the article. It’s one of the favorite places I’ve visited in my travels. Of course, it helped that we went wine tasting there! LOL!

  2. Avatar name says:

    Croatia is very high on my list of places to visit.  Eastern Europe is great, there are many interesting areas to visit, and not too many tourists around.

    We need to determine why many companies are willing to move into Chico, or Tehama county, and not Redding.  For some reason, the powers that be with the city (and County) are great at preventing new companies from moving here.  This needs to change – as it will benefit our area on many different levels.

  3. Avatar Mimi Moseley says:

    YES!!! This is so good!!! LOVE Julie Winter!

  4. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    The “Wall and Gates” metaphor doesn’t sing to me, because you could easily replace it with “Moat and Drawbridges” — and that isolationist us’ns vs. them’uns mentality has always been a big part of our problem.  It’s why we stood no chance of getting the 10th UC campus when it was up for grabs and would have helped solve many of our economic problems in short order.

    Broadly, I agree that economic disfunction and malaise continue to plague Shasta County and its surrounding counties—our economy perpetually drags ass behind the rest of California’s.

    More narrowly, I think it’s simplistic (to the point of being flat wrong) to suggest that only manufacturing and resource extraction jobs bring in outside money, whereas service industries only recycle local dollars.  The biggest employers in Shasta County are government, health and education, and professional services.  All bring in huge volumes of dollars from outside the area, and are sources of reasonably high-paying incomes and stable careers.  It would be a huge mistake to suggest to outside entities resembling CH2M and Pre-employ.com feel that they are not welcome because—as they’re in the services sector—we don’t think they’re part of the solution.

    I also scratch my head over this claim:  “The vast majority of new startups are in the tech sector. Why not survey them and find out why they chose Redding?”  I would be interested to know how Ms. Winter concluded that the vast majority of new startups in the Redding area (or anywhere else) are tech sector.  According to Experion, the business sectors in the US with the most startups in 2014 were as follows:

    Restaurants – 10.6%

    Personal services – 6.9%

    Miscellaneous retail – 6.6%

    Business services – 6.3%

    General contractors – 5.5%

     

    I find it hard to believe that Redding is such a tech-sector hotbed that it’s bucking those trends.

    • Avatar Julie Winter says:

      Steve,

      Thank you for reading the article and for your thoughtful response.  First, let me say that the metaphor of walls and gates was meant to imply strength and protection, not isolationism.  Sort of like your own home. Strong walls and a door that locks protects you from the elements and is superior in most situations to a tent with a zipper – at least when the rains come or its 110 outside.  No metaphor is perfect, but this is the closest I could get to convey the importance of strong walls being of benefit.  By the way, I would love to have a UC Redding and I mention support of this on my website, juliewinter.com.

      I particularly mentioned tech and manufacturing (not resource extraction) as sectors we need to encourage in our community.  This comes from data from our EDC, which is encouraging startups at the Shasta Venture Hub.  On my website above, under economic development I show graphs (from our EDC) that help demonstrate the economic output per job in tech and manufacturing compared to service and retail.  The difference is overwhelming  – 300-400% difference.  One of the keys to a strong local economy is diversity.  We need sectors that bring in money from national or international customers as this helps us whether economic recessions.  I work in the medical industry and I receive payment from an insurance company, that takes money out of the pocket of my patient and his/her employer.  This in essence is recirculating money within the community.  When the recession hit, I had patients right and left losing their jobs, because the recirculating money in our community withered.  We need to increase sectors that have customers that are national or international, so new money is coming into our local economy.

      The data about 80% of the new local startups being in the tech sector comes from our EDC.   Redding is appealing because of the low cost of living, quality of life, lower utilities and because many of these jobs are mobile and don’t need to be specifically in Silicone Valley.  This is an exciting time of transition in our city.  I am very interested in finding out how we can grow jobs that surpass our local median wage of $44k and help the 18% of our population that lives below the poverty level move into economic sustainability.  I am grateful for all startups (tech or otherwise) and we need to continue to look at ways to help both our existing businesses and new businesses thrive in our city.  If you have ideas about how we can reduce barriers to economic growth in our city, I would be very interested in hearing what you have to say.

  5. Such a great article!

    I haven’t thought of our economic issues from the analogy of a city wall, but really like the analogy and found it thought-provoking. Cities don’t employ the use of walls much these days, but the fact that these walls still stand after so many generations prove that these assets in Dubrovnik have been maintained and that there has been investment over the decades. Walls represent strength, and the fact that there is something within of value that needs to be protected.

    I think a purposeful investment in the foundations and assets of our community will pay dividends.

    That will involve investment and focus on the economic development in Redding, as well as other sections of wall (areas of strength) such as education, mental health, community involvement, community service, etc.

    Thanks for the great article, Julie.

  6. Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    Excellent article Julie.  The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, not because of ideological ideals but because economic problems.  No country or town is above the same fate unless they recognize that people need meaningful employment with a wage that can provide life’s necessities.  Space programs, art, oceanic research into whale migration, cancer research, and a million other projects are only possible if people are gainfully employed  and contributing in this world.   Thank you for sharing your thoughtful insight.

  7. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Many startups like restauraunts and retail have had high failure rates everywhere and have had for a long time.  Contractors are dependent on economic growth.  Business services are for the most part tech.

    Tech is the main economic driver in many areas.  The Colorado frontrange, which runs from Colorado Springs to Cheyenne, is being called Silicon Valley of the Rockies with all the tech start ups.  Omaha is being called the Silicon Valley of the Praries.   This tech boom drives all other service economy, just like the timber boom did in Redding.  Why are these tech startups, many from California, choosing these areas?  I hear people say it is because of cooler weather and that may be true somewnat in the frontrange, but Omaha has high humidity that makes temps higher and wetter than Redding.

    Like Julie states the tech companies in Redding should be surveyed.  When my oldest daughter left the Army with a tech degree she could find no employment in Redding and went to Seattle.  Some of her friends did too.  That was about fifteen years ago.  Have things changed in Redding for tech employment?

    As far as a wall of isolation I can definitly say Cheyenne has a wall of isolation but it is attracting many tech companies, Microsoft would be the big one but many littlier ones are here too.

    Tech is the future and Redding needs to find its niche in Tech or it will definitly have as its biggest export remain the youth.  The problem I see, from outside looking in, in Redding is there are a lot of people with a cando attitude but they are offset by a lot of nocando people.  And many of the cando people are longtime locals.  The cando people have to take charge.

    In the rumour mill that has reached Cheyenne and now even has some in California repeating it, is that HWY299 is being straightened and upgraded because there will be a deep water seaport built in Eureka.  The reasons for the seaport are for cruise ships to visit the Redwoods as well as a stated need for another seaport between the Portland/SF area.  Wyoming has already allotted funds to expand a seaport to ship products to the west coast and to Asia.  The funds are to be used in Seattle or Coos Bay but could go to Eureka.  Again this is just rumour.

  8. Avatar Jeff Gore says:

    Why should businesses choose Redding?

     

    By virtue of being shackled to California you have the highest worker’s comp costs, among the highest insurance costs, the highest income tax, among the most litigious of legal systems, burdensome one-size-doesn’t-fit-all regulations, etc

     

    By virtue of not having adequate state representation since 1964’s Reynolds v. Sims, you can’t attract any “good” government projects like a new CSU or UC (but if you play your cards right, you might get another prison or ammo dump).

     

    Redding lacks the critical mass to retain most of its talent, let alone adequately recruit outside talent (aside from those using their post as a stepping stone for a better position elsewhere).

     

    Mining, construction, & timber industries still exist, but they’ve mostly been outsourced to less restrictive environments.

     

    Frankly, I don’t think there is anything the city of Redding can do to effectively combat those headwinds.  A state of Jefferson would be the fresh start we need, but it is not going to happen soon or without major disruption.

     

    In the interim, my best solution would be to team up with northstate tribes to entice businesses to bring good jobs to the Rancherias (where they can find a healthy labor pool without being subjected to California red tape & costs)

  9. Avatar Sadie Hess says:

    I think the analogy of walls does “sing”. We need to find the next renewable resources in this area. I remember very distinctly when Blue Shield opened up their regional office. People lined up to apply. We have people willing to work. We just don’t have the decent income jobs. The hospitality industry, although very important, doesn’t have people line up to work there. They are usually entry level jobs. We need some industry to rebuild our walls and be a city people are proud to call home and career.

  10. Avatar Krista says:

    What a great article! I love that the analogy communicates the concept of building strategically to create sustainable mid and high level job opportunities for current and future generations. Not having a diversity of industry makes it hard on families and individuals who want to live in Redding but can’t find jobs that fit their skill set, provide professional growth opportunities and pay well enough to support themselves. I’d love to see our community rally around this concept to create viable solutions together!

  11. Avatar Eric Hess says:

    This is a great analogy of what Redding’s long term problems are.  We need as a city to commit to doing whatever it takes to allow locally owned business to prosper.  The local city government will never be the driver of our turn around, but there are policies which it can institute which will help or hinder our growth.  And entrepreneurs need to not listen to those naysayers who don’t believe it can happen or the rent seekers who want government to pay for what our economy must pay for in order to be sustainable long-term.  There is a lot of talent and passion in Redding.  If it were turned loose, the city could prosper and then the tax dollar and donations would be there to pay for the other services our community so badly needs.

  12. Avatar Virginia says:

    Thank you for writing an inspiring piece.  Ignore the negative comments from one.

    Think he may have forgotten that cities and counties don’t earn money, but they use our money via taxes!    There is no utopia.