LANCASTER – Twenty-two speakers from all levels of business, industry and government told an audience of 700 on Friday that Southern California’s Greater Antelope Valley is a region well positioned to be a leader in economic recovery and growth.
Linking their remarks to the 41st annual Antelope Valley Business Outlook Conference theme, “Freedom to Succeed,” speakers reported that the more than 2,000 square mile economic region covering North Los Angeles and Southeastern Kern County has continued to build its economy in the face of the national recession and slow recovery.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich talked about continuing investment in transportation infrastructure, and Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner discussed the growth in renewable energy, which is providing construction employment in the high desert regions of both counties.
Antonovich said the strength of the whole Antelope Valley region is found in its people and their sense of community expressed in volunteerism, “a news media that works,” and a cooperative spirit.
In outlining city economic initiatives underway, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris urged listeners to, “catch the wave that will give us a ride we couldn’t have dreamed of 10 years ago. If you’re looking for safety you’ve come to the wrong place, because this is where the adventure begins.”
Parris revealed that Lancaster is in negotiations for more than one-half billion dollars in investment, what he called “a game changer.”
Business motivational speaker George Passantino cautioned listeners to avoid taking counsel from their fears about “what if..?” uncertainty, and instead ask “what next?”
In his economic forecast for the region, Dr. Bill Watkins, executive director for the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at California Lutheran University, said, “I get the sense you guys can do anything you want. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this level of enthusiasm.”
Watkins said, venture capital has been the driver in California’s anemic growth to this point, but will tend to be less of a factor in the future. He called Assembly Bill 32, the global climate change law, “a disaster.”
Watkins urged California lawmakers to “do regulation right” by eliminating rules which cause costly delay, competitive disadvantage and business and investor uncertainty.
The regulatory theme was the focus for state Sen. Steve Knight, who said, “it is uncertainty of what government might do each year,” that hurts private sector job creation. Knight added, “Our valley is very resilient…but we are ready to move now, and build and strive toward new technologies.”
Knight was preceded at the podium by Congressman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who addressed the question of federal budget sequestration that threatens both Southern California’s military installations and the hundreds of defense contractors and sub-contractors imperiled by sequestration.
McKeon was not optimistic that the White House will work with the House, which has already passed two bills to avoid automatic across-the-board federal budgets cuts on March 1.
Keynote speakers at the annual conference organized by the Antelope Valley Board of Trade were Craig Jelinek, president and CEO of Costco Wholesale, who grew up in Lancaster, and JR Martinez, the young American wounded warrior who renewed his life and achieved national celebrity as an actor, author and winner on television’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
(Information via press release from the Antelope Valley Board of Trade.)