Kern County Board of Trade bypassed by tech
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.
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.
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.
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.