Monday, May 29, 2017
[Shasta County] The Buzz: Will city give Stillwater complete overhaul?
Redding Mayor Brent Weaver says it’s time to stop blaming the Great Recession for Stillwater Business Park’s woes.
“I think we are at a point where things are improving, so I think near-term we need to do everything we can as a city and EDC (Economic Development Corporation of Shasta County) to get some tenants in there,” Weaver told me.
I spoke to Weaver about the Shasta County grand jury’s critical report on the park – “Stillwater Business Park, Still Spending; Still Waiting.” Weaver reiterated what he told reporter Jim Schultz, that the grand jury did the community a service, giving us all an opportunity “to look under the hood.”
So, will the grand jury report get the city to do a complete overhaul on Stillwater? What’s been tried to date isn’t working. The park still sits empty.
The grand jury noted that since the park opened in 2010, it has generated close to 15 leads and one lot has sold.
Lassen Canyon Nursery purchased property in Stillwater in late 2015, but backed off those plans earlier this year due to changing conditions in the berry-growing market. The nursery vows to revisit Stillwater and has no intention at this time to sell its lot.
Come up with alternatives
Among the recommendations the grand jury made was telling the city to come up with different uses for Stillwater by early next year.
Does the idea Kent Dagg brought to the City Council in February qualify?
Dagg, former executive director of the Shasta Builders’ Exchange, suggested parceling out a 15-acre lot at the park into 1- to 2-acre lots. That would get local companies who maybe can’t afford to purchase a large lot interested.
So how many meetings has Dagg had with city officials since he brought this to the council’s priority-setting session in February?
“I’ve had good follow-up from Brent Weaver and (now retired City Manager) Kurt Starman. Both were very interested in the concept,” Dagg said.
But, too, Dagg was told the city is in discussions with a company interested in Stillwater. So be patient. We will get back to you.
“Once they exhausted the recruitment — whether it’s a success or not — they would revisit the idea,” Dagg said.
Weaver declined to comment about the recruitment.
For the record, Dagg hasn’t read the grand jury report. He still believes in Stillwater. And like many of the park’s proponents, Dagg thinks once the first company starts building, others will soon follow.
Dagg is no stranger to “radical” thinking when it comes to Stillwater. He spearheaded the city of Redding’s “Radical 10 in '10” in 2009, a program meant to jump-start an economy in the depths of a recession. Among the initiatives was a land-for-jobs deal in which the city would have given away the first lot at Stillwater.
Southern Aluminum Finishing was primed to take the city up on its offer. But, ironically, the manufacturer discovered Stillwater’s “shovel-ready” moniker wasn’t necessarily accurate. What finally changed Southern Aluminum’s mind not to build in Stillwater was the chance to buy a bank-owned building in Redding.
Which highlights the fact that Stillwater is not only competing for jobs with other communities but also its own community. There is a lot of empty commercial land for sale in Redding.
Stillwater Business Park was the EDC’s idea.
The organization identified the site and had an engineering analysis done on the property in 1999. The engineer’s report said the site was doable as an industrial park.
We reached out to the EDC the day of the grand jury report. EDC President Tony Giovaniello told reporter Schultz he had not read the report so was not yet ready to comment.
Then on Thursday, two days after the grand jury report came out, Giovaniello, in a prepared statement, said the EDC respects the grand jury’s report and the work that went into it. The EDC still sees Stillwater as an asset and will continue to evaluate the grand jury’s findings and recommendations.
Meanwhile, Stillwater, when it was conceived, was billed as a game-changer for the North State. But can a large-lot, shovel-ready industrial park still be relevant in today’s economic development game?
“It’s the single biggest thing we have done in terms of economic development, maybe ever, in this community,” former Redding City Councilman Pat Kight said in a July 1999 story I wrote announcing the vision for Stillwater.
Former EDC President Jim Zauher in that same story said the county doesn’t have ready-to-go large sites. Zauher believed the industrial park would put us in a more competitive position to land large companies.
For his part, Mayor Weaver says he will continue to push to keep Stillwater Business Park a top priority.
“But there will be some point in time when the council and the new city manager (Barry Tippin) will have to make a decision,” Weaver said, adding you can't just keep doing the same thing and expect results.
Speeding up the recovery
The Redding City Council recently heard a proposal from Councilman Adam McElvain, who wants to work with small businesses to bring a publicly owned ultra-high-speed internet hub to downtown. The project would be paid for exclusively by private enterprise. McElvain and others believe this would attract investment and new business to Redding.
McElvain’s idea comes on the heels of the Shasta Venture Hub, a business incubator and common-working area for startup companies created by the EDC with the help of investors.
For me, the Venture Hub and McElvain’s proposal are part of a small-ball approach that economic development has taken today.
Dan Morrow, who owns Opt-Test and Soft-Tek, says the federal government is working to bring manufacturing back to the United States and Redding has positioned itself well to benefit from this movement.
“The last piece of that will be the internet,” said Morrow, who supports McElvain’s efforts. “We pay a lot for high-speed internet here and it is definitely a drag on this whole movement. It’s the dark cloud that kind of hovers over everything.”
May 27, 2017
Redding Record Searchlight
By David Benda