With its hills, its ocean breezes and its chamber of commerce weather, California must have seemed like an absolute paradise.
Maybe that was the case in the 1950s, before everyone seemed to get the same idea. Today’s version of California proves more of a mixed bag, with homeless encampments and rising prices to go along with all those days that hit the weather sweet spot. To top it all off, millions of customers lost electricity last week because of concerns about wildfires in California.
In some political circles, observers take a certain glee in the Golden State’s troubles, as if it sends a warning about government overreach and regulations. It seems mean-spirited, even if some of the state’s policies are ill-advised, but one would be foolish to not try and gain advantage.
For many cities and states, the rush is on to claim a slice of a possible exodus. St. Joseph is no different, although St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce President Patt Lilly explained that California is just a small part of an overall worker attraction strategy that also includes recruiting from Midwest states and training our local population through access to a community college.
One thing is clear. St. Joseph is finding that having jobs is only part of the package. Those leaving California could go to a lot of places: Texas, Colorado or the Pacific Northwest.
Why here? Or, perhaps a better question, why not here?
To attract workers from California, Minnesota or anywhere, St. Joseph must address many of the reasons to remove this city from consideration for relocation. Lilly told News-Press Now those reasons include lack of new housing and the condition of certain neighborhoods.
Perhaps one of the city’s biggest obstacles, however, is perceptions about the public schools. The internet rears is ugly head here, with enough past fodder on district misdeeds living online to give pause anyone thinking of moving to this city.
At some point, the St. Joseph Board of Education is expected to present a proposal for modernizing aging facilities. When that proposal comes, it must be weighed based on cost as well as the impact on students, families and educators in St. Joseph.
But another aspect of improved school facilities would be the ability to reset perceptions that outsiders hold of our city, to diminish the temptation to take jobs in St. Joseph but live in Liberty or northern Kansas City, where schools feature new technology and amenities.
To this end, school improvement becomes an aspect of economic development and something to make the city more enticing to those looking for something new.
Otherwise, the best we can say is that, unlike California, we’re able to keep the lights on.