Kern County Board of Trade by­passed by tech

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - News -

Aven­er­a­ble Kern County in­sti­tu­tion that dates to 1888 is be­ing rec­om­mended for ex­tinc­tion in a report from the Kern County Grand Jury.

The Kern County Board of Trade was cre­ated two years af­ter the county was formed in 1886 to at­tract res­i­dents and busi­nesses in the east­ern U.S. to the county, some­thing be­ing done all over the West in those pi­o­neer­ing days.

Over the decades the Board per­formed its mis­sion ad­mirably, and was a big deal when I be­gan to get in­volved in com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties in the 1950s.

Un­der the lead­er­ship of one of the finest men I ever met, James “Jimmy” Radoumis, the agency played a key role in pro­mot­ing tourism, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, and film­ing in Kern.

Although based in Bak­ers­field, Jim was a fa­mil­iar fig­ure through­out the county, more than any county of­fi­cial then or now.

The Board has al­ways had 10 mem­bers, two from each su­per­vi­so­rial district.

Ac­tive en­tity

Board mem­bers were ac­tive peo­ple who at­tended Cham­ber of Com­merce and other lo­cal meet­ings to keep their fin­gers on the pulse of busi­ness, tourism and the county’s im­por­tant film­ing busi­ness.

Jim and his staff kept the county in the news and were a fa­mil­iar pres­ence all over this big county.

The best ex­am­ple I ever saw of the Board’s in­flu­ence in­volved the late Richard “Dick” Led­widge of Mo­jave, who dur­ing his busy ca­reer per­formed ad­mirably as a Sher­iff’s Sergeant, judge of the Mo­jave Court, su­per­vi­sor’s field rep­re­sen­ta­tive, and Mo­jave Pub­lic Util­ity District gen­eral man­ager.

Dick also served two years as Board of Trade pres­i­dent. When his term ended Jim gave him a cou­ple of big, thick, news­pa­per-size books con­tain­ing copies of all the news re­leases and pub­lic­ity about the county that had been pub­lished dur­ing Dick’s term.

They were stun­ning doc­u­ments and I’ve never seen any­thing like them since.

Board re­named

In 1961 county su­per­vi­sors re­named the Board of Trade as the Kern County Cham­ber of Com­merce, which lasted un­til Jan. 25, 2000, when it re­turned to its his­toric name.

When Jim re­tired, his po­si­tion was filled by a cou­ple of suc­ces­sors and then by Rick Davis of Bak­ers­field.

Davis, fa­ther of Korn lead singer Jonathan Davis, did an out­stand­ing job of pro­mot­ing the county.

Dur­ing the record-set­ting 2004 SpaceShipO­ne flights from what would be­come the Mo­jave Air & Space­port, Davis and his staff worked closely with the air­port district and in­ter­na­tional news me­dia to elec­tron­i­cally con­nect the event and Mo­jave to the world.

Rick also de­vel­oped elec­tronic kiosks that were lo­cated in county com­mu­ni­ties that pro­vided about the county and lo­cal com­mu­nity to vis­i­tors.

The kiosks were a valu­able re­source that soon be­came re­dun­dant with the un­ex­pect­edly rapid ad­vent of cell phones.

One of the first of the kiosks was lo­cated in Her­itage Park at what is now the Mo­jave Air & Space­port.

Rick also cre­ated an an­nual James Radoumis Award pre­sented to in­di­vid­u­als for their ef­forts to pro­mote the county.

Ed Wald­heim of Cal­i­for­nia City and I re­ceived the awards, Ed for his pro­mo­tion of off-high­way recre­ation which has be­come a prof­itable re­gional in­dus­try, and me for my ef­forts to pro­mote Mo­jave and the re­gion.

Grand Jury Report

En­ti­tled “Is it Time to Move on?,” the grand jury report ar­gues that the Board of Trade es­sen­tially no longer ex­ists, with its eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ef­forts now han­dled by the Kern County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, which works closely and ef­fec­tively with EKEA and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ef­forts.

Tourism and film­ing ac­tiv­i­ties are now func­tions of an “Of­fice of County Wide Com­mu­ni­ca­tions” in the County Ad­min­is­tra­tive Of­fice, which ab­sorbed Board of Trade re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in 2012.

The only ev­i­dence of the new ac­tiv­ity is a bi­monthly report de­liv­ered by CAO em­ployee at East Kern Eco­nomic Al­liance meet­ings, and the ten mem­ber Board.

A mem­ber of that group told me, off the record, that not much is hap­pen­ing with an in­sti­tu­tion that once was a pos­i­tive force in Kern County.

Times change

Plac­ing blame for this state of af­fairs can be blamed on the ad­vances of tech­nol­ogy rather than on in­di­vid­u­als or “the county.”

Like the kiosks be­ing made re­dun­dant by the In­ter­net, ad­ver­tis­ing has changed pro­mo­tion and ad­ver­tis­ing by or­ders of mag­ni­tude.

Col­or­ful brochures have been re­placed by web pages. I an­swer the Mo­jave Cham­ber of Com­merce phone and about four or five times a year I get a call from some­one want­ing a “Mo­jave brochure.”

These calls all come from folks who, for what­ever rea­sons, have not adapted to the in­ter­net. By the way, not all of these call­ers are el­derly.

I mail them copies of our cur­rent brochure but it is pretty much out of date.

When our sup­plies run out, I doubt they will be re­placed. Print­ing is ex­pen­sive and keep­ing print me­dia cur­rent is im­pos­si­ble.

As an ex­am­ple of changes in tech­nol­ogy I re­cently changed my An­te­lope Val­ley Press sub­scrip­tion to dig­i­tal from print. I no longer have to trek out to the edge of the street with my bad back to pick up the print pa­per, the dig­i­tal ver­sion doesn’t get wet when it rains, and it doesn’t add to my trash. I read sev­eral pa­pers the same way.

I also read about a book a week on my iPad.

The grand jury report notes that changes to the former Board of Trade paradigm have re­sulted in a steady in­crease in vis­i­tors and film­ing in the county rather than any re­duc­tion, which means that the changes are work­ing.

As Bob Dy­lan sang, “The times they are a’changin’,” and the Kern County Board of Trade is he lat­est ex­am­ple.


Just about ev­ery time we get a new prescripti­on these days it has a new “adult proof” cap de­sign which is rarely an im­prove­ment.

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