"We don’t have seats at the table,” laments Richard Chapman, president and CEO of the Kern Economic Development Corporation. “We are a flyover state within a state."
Fresno, Bakersfield, Ontario and San Bernardino are rapidly becoming the Bantustans — the impoverished areas designed for Africans under the racist South African regime — in California’s geographic apartheid. Poverty rates in the Central Valley and Inland Empire reach over a third of the population, well above the share in the Bay Area.
Kern County’s economy is largely based in agriculture and oil extraction, but water is scarce and oil is a commodity subject to market fluctuation and whims. Manufacturing, once major employer of the county’s workforce, has dwindled. The county has large unincorporated areas mixed in with incorporated areas, as well as federal and state-owned lands. Challenges are many. However, the stark disparity between employment and income levels of coastal communities and inland communities such as Kern County is exacerbated by state legislation and policy. Orange County Register article, The Other California-A Fly Over State Within a State, is worth reading.
This disparity has worsened in recent years. Until the 2008 housing crash, the interior counties served, as the Kern EDC’s Chapman puts it, as “an incubator for mobility.” These areas were places that Californians of modest means, and companies no longer able to afford coastal prices, could get a second shot.
But state policies, notably those tied to Gov. Jerry Brown’s climate jihad, suggests Inland Empire economist John Husing, have placed California"at war” with blue-collar industries like homebuilding, energy, agriculture and manufacturing. These kinds of jobs are critical for regions where almost half the workforce has a high school education or less.
By curtailing new housing supply, California is systematically shutting off this aspirational migration. Chapman University forecaster James Doti notes that, in large part due to regulation, Inland Empire housing prices have jumped 80 percent since 2009 — almost twice the rate for Orange County. Doti links this rapid rise to helping slow the area’s once buoyant job growth in half over the past two years. Population growth has also slowed, particularly in comparison to a decade ago.
California central planning at its best! Give mobility a bad name by calling it “displacement,” prevent organic housing growth by mountains of zoning, push up housing costs by limiting development to concentrated areas, tax most industry to death and reward a few. Non-anointed counties struggle while California preaches environment and equity.