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The City Wall of Economic Strength

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.