Black gold and renewable energy make Kern County a recovery star

  • Former Supervisor John McQuiston with Scott Kissack of Rio Tinto minerals (Supvr. Zack Scrivner in the background) at the January 30 speech.

    Former Supervisor John McQuiston with Scott Kissack of Rio Tinto minerals (Supvr. Zack Scrivner in the background) at the January 30 speech.

State of the County speech sees great things for 2013 economy

Compiled by Patric Hedlund

“A nation that is starved for good economic news has noticed what’s happening
here…. Kern County has helped to lead California and the nation out of the
recession, and we’ve made statewide and national economic news,” the 2013 State
of the County gathering at the Bakersfield Doubletree was told last week.

“The economy of Kern County is a star in California, competing with Silicon
Valley for high marks in recovery,” Mike Maggard, chair for the Kern County
Board of Supervisors told the crowd.

“Housing and construction are starting to come back, office space is filling
up again, farm receipts hit a new record, and we're starting to pull out of an
economic tailspin,” he said.

Here are more excerpts from his speech on January 30:

Employment gains

  • Kern County was recently ranked as the nation's third most competitive
    economy in a study comparing regional versus national job growth between
    2010 and 2012.
  • After the U.S. Bureau of Labor ranked Kern County's 5.3 percent increase
    in employment as tops in the nation in 2011, we followed that with another
    strong year, adding 5,500 private sector jobs from October 2011 to October
  • That total included more than 900 construction jobs, much of them coming
    in two sub-sectors-oil and gas, and electrical installation.

Energy superstar

  • Much of this boom has been driven by strong oil prices that in turn
    support new extraction technologies. Petroleum still thrives at the heart of
    our economy and forms the bedrock of our tax base.
  • Some estimates place up to 80 percent of California's remaining oil
    under Kern County soil, with perhaps 12 billion barrels still waiting to be
  • Besides Kern County's black gold, we have embraced 21st century energy.
    In 2012, we moved closer to meeting the board's goal of 10,000 megawatts of
    electrical energy produced within Kern County by 2015. The board approved a
    combined 860 megawatts of new wind and solar projects to bring Kern County's
    renewable capacity to more than 7,500 megawatts, far above any other county
    in the State.
  • The value of wind energy projects is now assessed at $7.5 billion, and
    wind will generate 3,000 new Kern County jobs this year.

Warehouse logistics

  • We're also emerging as a low-cost link in the supply chain for many
    national brands. Our location allows one-day turnaround for truckers
    delivering from San Francisco to San Diego and we're within a three-hour
    drive of 90 percent of California's population, so we provide a natural
    advantage for a company looking to build a production or distribution
    facility. We boast some 35 logistics centers here including Ikea, Frito Lay,
    Dollar General, Famous Footwear and Target.

County ‘fast track’

  • The county does everything we can to help a new business get up and
    running right away. We work with developers to make sure large, shovel-ready
    sites are located near major shipping routes. The county provides fast
    permitting and connects employers to a reliable labor force with a strong
    work ethic. That's a big reason why Caterpillar's new parts distribution
    center at Interstate 5 and Highway 99 [at Tejon Industrial Complex] went
    from handshake to grand opening last August in just eight months.
  • Shafter has taken a truly “deep dive” into logistics by starting rail
    service to industrial customers. The city has acquired or laid more than
    10,000 feet of track over which it moves loaded and empty rail cars from a
    central switching point to tenants of the logistics park on Seventh Standard
    Road. Now Class 1 railroads can deliver to multiple customers at a single
    destination, and Shafter has 500 jobs that weren't there before.

Housing recovery

  • Besides the commercial building boom, county-wide permits for
    single-family housing have more than doubled this year to more than 900. The
    value of a typical home in Kern County went up almost four and a half
    percent during the past twelve months. That is the highest rate increase in
    California and the fourth highest in the nation.
  • In 2013, Kern County should see the third highest gain in housing prices
    nationwide, according to a forecast that looks for Kern housing prices to
    rise nearly 8 percent above 2012 prices.
  • The Mojave Spaceport sparked a logistics boom, besides incubating all
    kinds of private aerospace and flight innovations.
  • Kern County agriculture topped $5 billion in sales for the first time

The Kern County “brand”

  • Press stories nationwide show the Kern County brand is improving. Kern
    County was ranked as the second best performing metro area in California on
    the Milken Institute’s annual index. Milken ranks metro areas on job growth,
    wage/salary growth and high-tech industries. Among California metro areas,
    only the Silicon Valley ranked higher. Nationally, Kern County ranked 19th.
    Last year we were 47th, so we are indeed picking up economic steam.

The “On Numbers” blog recently ranked Kern first among California counties
for total personal income growth from 2001 to 2011.

Moving out of recession

  • More people in Kern County are working, feeding their families, paying
    mortgages and moving toward a more secure future. As Kern County begins to
    move out of this recession, our challenge in county government is to use the
    resources that come along with that renewed growth as wisely as possible….
    Last year we finally began to turn the fiscal corner, adopting a budget that
    allowed us to begin restoring services, start some major maintenance
    projects that we had been forced to defer, and rebuild the county's

Rehiring, rebudgeting

  • After cutting almost 900 authorized positions in 2010, we were able to
    add some positions back in 2012 to law enforcement, firefighting, human
    services, animal control, and other important functions.
  • We also budgeted $20 million in major maintenance projects. We're
    replacing roofs, paving parking lots, upgrading heating and air
    conditioning, replacing water tanks and sewage facilities at parks and
    rehabbing campground.
  • We budgeted another $20 million for capital projects. Most of that is to
    modernize our aging jail at Lerdo, but we're also doing a seismic retrofit
    of the sheriff's substation in Buttonwillow, expanding and modernizing the
    Hall of Records, and drawing plans for new fire stations at Keene and Lake
  • We boosted reserves in various county funds to more than $93 million.
    The largest of these, the general reserve, is $40 million, almost up to our
    target of 7% of overall general fund appropriations.
  • We have come to an agreement to modify our employee benefits by working
    together and reaching new labor agreements. The Board of Supervisors has
    signed agreements with our 12 employee associations that require all current
    and future employees to contribute to health and retirement benefits.
  • The agreements also return safety retirement benefits to a more
    affordable level. I know that progress will continue to be made on pensions
    and keeping the county economically viable with the help of Supervisor
    Couch’s sound private sector experience, and service on KCERA.

Marijuana and animal control

  • Working with animal welfare advocates, the county is making sweeping
    changes in the way we house strays and adopt out pets. We set a goal of
    reducing euthanasia rates by 10%, and last year we recruited Jen Woodard, a
    strong advocate of low-kill and no-kill methods with a proven record of
    success, to head our Animal Control operations.
  • In 2012, Kern County voters supported regulating how and where medical
    marijuana dispensaries operate with ordinance Measure G.


  • Often with the help of Federal Community Development Block Grant funds,
    the county is improving parks and facilities at Rexland Acres, Lamont,
    Oildale, Leroy Jackson Park, McFarland Community Center, Lamont and
    California City. Paramount Farming Corporation helped with an “extreme
    makeover” of the county park and streets in Lost Hills.
  • The county finished construction of Fire Station 65, replacing a cramped
    facility on Rosedale Highway. Improvements have been made at an Hageman Road
    grade separation underpass at Allen Road, Santa Fe Way and the BNSF Railroad
    to cure bottlenecks that choked commerce in the area for years.
  • In 2013, we’re planning to install sidewalks, curbs, gutters and a
    walking path at Riverside Park in Kernville. The Kern County Museum will
    break ground on the Jim Burke Plaza.
  • The county will put up $22 million and receive another $100 million in
    state bond funds to build a nearly 800-bed facility at Lerdo jail. Our
    existing jail is too small to allow the sheriff to hold serious criminal
    offenders long enough to motivate them to obey the law. A massive influx of
    new offenders to counties under AB 109 reduces state prison overcrowding.
    Kern County has received far more offenders than the state predicted,
    sentencing our law-abiding citizens to a lower standard of public safety.

‘Fix CEQA’ and fight cuts

In Kern County, we know government begins and ends with a healthy private
sector. A big reason for our local job growth is that Kern County tries to cut
the red tape. Instead of “no,” we try to find a pathway to “yes.” We welcome
business, and so must the rest of California.

CEQA [the California Environmental Quality Act] has become a legal
sledge hammer for neighbors to stop any sort of growth anywhere near their
homes, so developers often have to build in open space and on ag land to meet
the housing demand. Many planners believe CEQA may be the biggest cause of
sprawl in California. If a project has met all environmental rules that
California layers on top of CEQA, it ought to go forward.

With possible defense cuts looming in 2013, California must also protect its
military bases from budget cuts-many of which are irreplaceable national assets.
Kern County has worked with East Kern residents to protect our valuable military
development bases at China Lake and Edwards Air Force Base from past defense
cuts. We will do so again.

I haven’t touched on many other challenges that lie ahead for us, such as
securing water for our thirsty San Joaquin Valley, educating our children and
training our workforce to compete in the world, plus so many other urgent needs.

But if we continue to focus county government on making our communities great
places to live and work, people and businesses will find out about us. We will
keep growing, and we will keep moving forward.

-Comments summarized from speech by Kern County Board of Supervisors Chair,
Mike Maggard

This is part of the February 08, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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