Yuba-Sutter tourism, agriculture touted as job builders
2011 21.6 %
The three Marysville residents who wanted to be appointed to the City Council were posed the same question: What would you do to boost economic development?
"Entertainment is something that gets everybody," said Brad Hudson, who suggested a six-screen movie theater downtown.
Improve promotion of Marysville, Chris Pedigo said Tuesday.
Ami Scarfe wanted to keep a boutique-type community — and said Marysville doesn't have big-box stores.
The City Council is set to take up again Tuesday an appointment to fill a council vacancy — but economic development of Marysville and the rest of the region won't be decided so soon.
Growth, along with agriculture and tourism, is seen by many as helping to lower the high unemployment rates that have long marked Yuba-Sutter.
Darin Gale, Yuba City's economic development manager, said agriculture — including manufacturing of farm equipment — remains the key sector.
"It's the foundation of who we are," Gale said. "There will always be a demand for that."
Rice growers meeting in Yuba City heard last week that agriculture faces a fine future as the middle class in China and India expands and imports more food from the United States.
"We have got a great market opportunity," said Randy Russell, who represents the California Rice Commission in Washington, DC.
Gale said the city is a sweet site for growers.
"We have plenty here," he said. "We have water and very fertile ground."
While some see attracting a major corporation as the magic bullet to boost the region's economy, Gale said the era when tech giants Hewlett-Packard and NEC opened new sites — as they did decades ago in Roseville — has largely passed.
Yuba City has 2,500 businesses, he said, and more than 90 percent of them have fewer than 50 employees. If all the businesses were to add just one employee over the next three to five years, it would be similar to attracting an employer of over 2,500 people.
Jackie Sillman, chairwoman of the Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce board, has lived here all her life and said the last couple of years were prob bly the worst for job loss. Now the region is positioned for better days. Plans by the chamber to promote tourism are a key part of that future, she said.
"We've gone over 'woe, woe, woe is us,'" Sillman said of the two counties.
It's time now to tell Northern Californians the story of Yuba- Sutter, she said.
"We can show them what we have here," Sillman said.
Having the premiere tourism sites of San Francisco and Lake Tahoe nearby means this region can be overlooked, she said.
"People just forget we're here," Sillman said.
The Bishop Pumpkin Farm in Wheatland shows people are willing to travel to this region, she added.
Kristy Santucci, chief executive officer of the chamber, said that in 2012 the pumpkin farm provided more than 340 jobs — and 50 contract labor positions.
"As we become successful as a region marketing ourselves and maximizing our natural resources," Santucci said, "visitor spending will undoubtedly increase — creating more jobs."
"Tourism is a labor-intensive industry," she added.
Increased visitor spending directly impacts job growth, Santucci said.
Tourism represents not just visitors who vacation here but people traveling for business or pleasure. When someone stops at Stephens Farmhouse in Sutter County to pick up some fresh jam they represent part of the tourism industry, Santucci said.
In 2010, employment in our two counties generated directly by travel spending totaled 1,940 jobs, she noted.
Santucci told Yuba City City Council members in December that the 31 lakes and five rivers in the two counties make this "the Mecca of hunting and fishing."
Diane Patterson, a labor market analyst with the state Employment Development Department, said job trends here going back to 2000 generally follow the rest of state.
"It has been consistently high," she added of unemployment rates in Yuba-Sutter.
The agricultural base means that unemployment always peaks in January and February, Patterson added.
CONTACT Ryan McCarthy at email@example.com or 749-4780. Find him on Facebook at /@ADrmccarthy or on Twitter at @ADrmccarthy.