How does a community develop the "intangibles" that employers and residents look to when choosing a location for their growing business or family? If you read The Californian's Aug. 11 editorial, "Intangibles do matter to employers," you might think it happens by accident. Even The Californian's editorial purports that the intangibles in the Tehachapi area are "unique" because of "natural features, for the most part, not creations of business-seeking civic leadership."
With regard to our beautiful mountain setting, the editorial is correct. Nestled at 4,000 feet, at the southern end of the Sierra Nevada, Tehachapi is a unique and beautiful treasure. Bordered on one side by high desert and by the great San Joaquin Valley on the other, the greater Tehachapi area enjoys the benefits of alpine forests, desert scrub brush and grassy foothills. Our air is often pristine and our four seasons are dramatic and spectacular. There is no doubt that Tehachapi residents are fortunate to enjoy our incredible mountain setting.
Unfortunately, the accuracy of the editorial stops with the comments about our environment. Our "aviation-friendly setting," as The Californian refers to it, is not an accident or some miracle of nature. It is, rather, the result of the hard work and dedication of not only business-seeking civic leadership (although we do exist) but also local pilot groups and aviation enthusiasts who took charge of their own destiny. Through proper community-based planning, aggressive pursuit of grant funding, public support and local funds, the Tehachapi Municipal Airport has experienced literally millions of dollars in capital improvements during the last decade that make our airport the kind of place a business would want to locate.
In addition to the outstanding airport improvements, the city of Tehachapi has partnered with countless community groups and nonprofits to invest in, and improve, our other community assets. These partnerships include, but are not limited to:
More than $500,000 in improvements to the Tehachapi Event Center and Rodeo Grounds.
The Tehachapi Community Theatre: More than $1 million in renovation and operation of the Historic BeeKay Theatre.
The Tehachapi Heritage League: More than $250,000 in enhancements to the Tehachapi Museum.
The Friends of the Tehachapi Depot: More than $1 million restoration of the Tehachapi Depot.
Main Street Tehachapi: Thousands of dollars invested in public and private signage, community events and other quality of life related investments.
The city has also planned, designed, funded and constructed more than $4 million in improvements to the city's downtown, $5 million in sewer system improvements and more than $1 million in water improvements throughout Tehachapi.
All of these "intangible" efforts, both public and private, have created the kind of place where a business can locate because of the attractive public spaces, community pride and quality infrastructure. None of this was an accident. But we're not stopping there. For the last several years, the city has been working with the community to finalize a comprehensive General Plan update. This new plan, adopted early in 2012, now sets the long-term community growth vision in a way that has never been done in the state of California. Its strong focus on sustainability, smart growth and form-based planning is an innovative approach that will allow us to continue to build upon the great work already being done.
So rather than write about the luck Tehachapi supposedly experiences because of our natural setting, I would encourage The Californian's editorial board to visit Tehachapi, learn about the hardworking and forward-thinking residents, community groups and civic leaders, and then pass judgment. I think board members might find out that Tehachapi certainly is "unique" after all, but not for the reasons they originally thought.
Greg Garrett is the city manager of Tehachapi and worked for 22 years in the aerospace and energy industries prior to his time with Tehachapi. Another View presents a critical response to a previous editorial, column or news story.