By Ed Martin, The Leader Editor
Lemoore City Council should re-visit Kings EDC decision, its longtime economic partner

In 2015, city officials and local law enforcement types gathered together at the Lemoore Police Department to celebrate the acquisition of a nearly $1 million grant for a proposed police dispatch center in Lemoore.

There were high fives, hearty congratulations, and promises of improved and better coordinated public safety efforts. Everybody was happy. It was a good day for Lemoore – and law enforcement.

Lemoore's 25,000 residents could rest assured that their city leaders were keeping our town safe.

The CrisCom Company, a lobbying and economic development firm hired by the City of Lemoore to lobby and attract retail business, certainly deserved the lion’s share of the credit. The 2015 Lemoore City Council was so pleased with firm’s abilities; it hired CrisCom (a $60,000 contract) to continue its lobbying and economic development efforts on behalf of the city. From Sept. 1, 2016, to Aug. 31, 2017, Lemoore contracted with CrisCom again, this time at a rate of $42,000 per year.

Kings Economic Development Corporation Website

So, over $102,000 taxpayer dollars later: What have you done for us lately?

While CrisCom succeeded (at least once) in the halls of the state capitol (dispatch center), the lobbying firm has mostly failed to bolster Lemoore’s years-long efforts at attracting retail economic development.

CrisCom’s president, Chuck Jelloian, admitted to councilmembers that finding retail opportunities for Lemoore has been difficult – he says his firm talked to hundreds of prospects – most of which have bared little or no fruit.

Bringing retail opportunities and sales tax is undoubtedly hard, particularly when communities like Lemoore are all seeking the same thing. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there as cities spar over potential sales tax revenues – to pay for things like police, fire, and streets.

Jelloian told our local leaders that the Wal Marts, Costco, and the other big retailers, coveted by cities for their sales tax, may have written off Lemoore – mostly because of its relatively small population.

In recognition of CrisCom’s retail failures, councilmembers still opted to hire the firm for its consulting and lobbying efforts at a month-to-month cost of $3,750 per month.

Certainly, Lemoore movers and shakers should continue their efforts at attracting retail development, but they must recognize it’s going to be difficult. However, retail development will and should always be a priority.

But economic development isn’t always about the coveted sales tax. It’s about jobs too, lots of them. And that’s why Lemoore once nurtured a nearly 40-year-long relationship with the Kings County Economic Development Corporation, an agency that for the past two years our city officials have abandoned.

Lemoore's leaders certainly need to reconsider their 2015 decision to abandon its long-time economic development partner and vote to renew their longstanding partnership. At a recent council meeting,  it appeared that the EDC might indeed re-engage with the city, but only two Lemoore councilmembers – Mayor Ray Madrigal and Councilmember Dave Brown – sought to renew the relationship. Brown’s motion to rehire the EDC died for lack of a second.

Surprising, considering Lemoore’s long history with the EDC and its focus on jobs.

The lack of a vote was a surprise. The Kings EDC sweetened the pot, offering Lemoore councilmembers a reduced annual rate of $20,000 per year, which includes all the services the city benefitted from previously.

The City of Lemoore should reconsider its vote. There is no profit-motive connected to the Kings EDC. It exists solely to improve the economic health of Kings County, its communities, and its residents.

The EDC is a job creator. It employs a multitude of useful tools for creating jobs, providing business opportunities and assisting new businesses with loans. Its primary function is to reach out to job creators, companies, and manufacturers – a sort of “clearing house” for business location and expansion. Its focus is jobs. It doesn’t focus much on retail development.

The EDC is a good neighbor, a friendly entity keeping an eye on your home while you’re on vacation, a friend, there to join you as you both work to improve the neighborhood. Why not take advantage of this special relationship?

Lemoore has experienced decent job growth over the years, from the expansion of Leprino West (1,000 jobs), partnering with the West Hills College District, planting the seeds of a full-fledged community college (500 jobs), and faithfully continuing its long love affair with the United States Navy and Naval Air Station.

Lemoore accomplished this with its partners: Leprino, West Hills College, the Navy, and of course the Kings EDC.

Creating jobs is what the Kings EDC does. All the tools needed are here to educate manufacturers and jobs-producing businesses as to the potential in Kings County and Lemoore. The Kings Economic Development is all about providing these resources – demographics, labor market information, land, buildings, tax incentives and credits, and much more, including a loan program for upcoming, developing business. Many Lemoore and Kings County businesses have indeed benefited from the EDC’s financing.

Lemoore certainly must not give up on retail development. However, it must also recognize that it’s going to be hard, based on our city’s demographics, location, and other factors. Meantime, we’ve had some success with creating jobs, and that’s where the good folks at the Kings EDC can help.

And we should welcome them home.