Greater Taft Economic Development Authority (GTEDA) was formed in 1998; until its reorganization in November 2012, however, GTEDA was dormant while other issues took center stage in Taft and Kern County.
As the new GTEDA Board was seated, enumeration of economic issues within the Greater Taft area became paramount. The Board members went on a “Tour of Taft” making site visits to areas that needed attention – whether it was cleaning up, fixing up, or tearing down. The Board recognized the need to prioritize the issues, and conferred leadership for this process upon the Office of Community and Economic Development at Fresno State.
The City of Taft Community-Based Economic Development Strategy (Strategy) was an eight-month program, with 25 to 30 Taft citizens meeting twice a month at various locations around town, including Taft College Library, West Kern Oil Museum, and Monarch Fleet Services & Automotive. The group learned first what economic development is; and second, current economic circumstances in Taft, its outlying areas, Kern County, and California.
Guest speakers shared expertise in customer service, workforce needs, business retention and expansion and marketing. When the program was completed, participants were able to make decisions about economic goals for the community to which the Taft partners could realistically aspire. When decisions were finalized, strategies were outlined for implementation, including the assignment of “Goal Champions”- Taft organizations responsible for implementation. The lion’s share of the responsibility was given to the city of Taft, Taft District Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau (Chamber), and Taft College. Lesser roles were assigned to Kern Economic Development Corporation, Kern County Workforce Investment Board (Kern WIB), and Kern County Board of Trade.
One month after the Strategy was presented to and approved by Taft City Council, the city completed its first draft of an inventory of available land and retail space for use by interested investors, businesses, and entrepreneurs. The Chamber began its community informational meetings, explaining the Strategy to interested groups and service clubs. The Chamber is working with downtown businesses on the concept of a Downtown Business Improvement District (BID). Taft College initiated meetings with Taft Union High School District and the Kern WIB to address skill gaps and workforce needs of area businesses and service providers.