Tehachapi and East Kern have a role to play in the economic initiative known as B3K – short for Better Bakersfield & Boundless Kern.
That’s the message shared by John-Paul “JP” Lake, speaker at the March 2 meeting of the Greater Tehachapi Economic Development Council.
The announcement of Lake’s appointment as executive director of B3K Prosperity had just been made, along with the announcement of a new governance structure for the group which has been working since early 2020 to reduce the county’s reliance on its two main industries, oil and agriculture.
B3K is a public-private collaborative effort to develop a roadmap and investment plan for economic growth and inclusion in Kern County.
The goal, Lake said, is a plan to create 100,000 quality jobs across the county by 2031.
Tehachapi EDC kicked off the year with a workforce development plan focused on three key areas – highly skilled physicians, scientists and mathematicians, and skilled trades – and Lake noted that the two organizations share a objective of economic diversity.
B3K, he noted, has defined the quality jobs it seeks, including the minimum wage level required.
“That figure is $21.80 an hour, or about $43,000 a year,” he said. “And we also think those jobs should include employer-provided health care.”
Such jobs, he added, would allow a single-earner family to start saving around $6,000 a year.
“It’s a humble start, but it’s a start,” Lake said.
The 100,000 good jobs, he noted, should come from four industries: aerospace, advanced manufacturing, business-to-business services, and energy and carbon management.
Working groups have been formed to focus on each of these industry clusters as B3K Prosperity enters an implementation phase based on a 117-page market assessment.
Volunteers – especially from the private sector – are needed for each of the clusters to refine and strengthen job creation efforts.
In addition, he noted, more support for entrepreneurship is needed. He said he and Corey Costelloe, deputy city manager and economic development coordinator for the city of Tehachapi, discussed ways to provide training for entrepreneurs to start businesses.
Just as the Tehachapi EDC focuses on workforce development to prepare local residents for better jobs, efforts to grow local businesses will mean fewer outside businesses will need to be attracted to the county, Lake said.
“We really need to focus on the talent pipeline,” he said, “from cradle to career. How do we prepare kids to go into aerospace? And not just engineering jobs — we’re talking here also trades jobs, right? They need welders, they need electricians, they need mechanics. They have, you know, all kinds of people building these amazing things that they build there,” he said of the aerospace industry at East Kern.
Tehachapi EDC President Josh Pierce said he believes there are ways to coordinate local efforts with those of B3K and Lake encouraged anyone interested in industrial clusters to connect with B3K.
For more information, visit b3kprosperity.org. The market study can be downloaded in the “resources” tab.
Claudia Elliott is a freelance journalist and former editor of Tehachapi News. She lives in Tehachapi and can be contacted by email: email@example.com.