Kern Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Richard Chapman and Vice President Cheryl Scott visited Tehahcapi Rotary on Aug. 22. The pair presented an update on the economic state of the county and what the future may hold.
Chapman told the group that Kern County remains the No. 1 agriculture producing county in the entire nation. However, Kern County has dropped to No. 5 in oil production in recent years. The county has attracted several large corporations with projects being completed for companies like Amazon, Walmart (cold storage), L’Oreal, Hadco and Joyride food processing.
He added that the recently announced Hard Rock Resort and Casino was still in tribal negotiations, but is planned to be a 400-room hotel with a 2,000 seat venue. Following a Kern EDC tour of Fresno in 2017, tech catalyst Bitwise announced it plans to expand to Bakersfield.
Kern County is No. 1 in workforce in California, reported Chapman, but has only a 44 percent retention rate. There is a real need to attract quality talent to the area and, once here, find a way to retain it.
Cheryl Scott, a 26-year member of Rotary, represented the Kern Economic Development Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit focusing on workforce development and finding ways to keep talent in the county.
Scott said the foundation has focused on STEM programs in the schools. Finding a low number of women in STEM, the foundation has developed a new network for women with support for professional development. The foundation has also been working with Project Management Institute, the largest professional development organization in the world.
Through the Buttonwillow Mentoring Project, 50 students from Buttonwillow have learned about business through field trips throughout the Central Valley. STEMposium, held at the Kern County Museum, brings students, businesses and the community together to share information regarding science, technology, engineering and math. Scott described it like a combination of science fair and job fair. The foundation also does high school mentoring for boys and girls.
Tehachapi Rotary meets at noon Thursdays at The Shed, 333 E. Tehachapi Blvd.
Pat Doody is the publicity chair for the Rotary Club of Tehachapi.