While residents basked in the glory of GreenPower Motor Company breaking ground on its electric-powered bus manufacturing plant two weeks ago, two things last week quickly brought everyone back to Earth on the challenges the local economy faces.
First, Royalty Carpet abruptly closed its doors and laid off 140 employees. The plant had been here more than three decades and some employees had been with Royalty nearly that long.
Second, a U.S. Census Bureau report showed just how far Tulare County, and Porterville, lag behind the rest of the state in economic development.
In short, we still have much work to do.
This is not an indictment of efforts by those trying to bring jobs to the area. We feel the efforts have been there, although we would like to see a little more focus on industry and housing jobs.
City officials know it is those jobs which really fuel an economy.
Porterville is not the Silicon Valley, nor will it likely ever be a large industrial area. We are an ag-based economy and that means lower pay and for most, harder work than factory jobs. Porterville is really not much different than other cities in the San Joaquin Valley in that regard.
Still, manufacturing jobs have left the area — by our estimate more than 1,000 in the past 20 years. And, they are not just leaving Porterville, they are leaving the state of California. The local manager for Royalty Carpets gave the poor business environment in this state as the reason for that plant’s closure, and we believe him.
While parts of Los Angeles and the Bay Area have seen strong economic growth recently, the Valley has not and Porterville is about the poorest of the poorest. Maybe GreenPower will help, but efforts need to remain strong — stronger — in order for good job opportunities to exist for residents here.