OILDALE - From water flow to the Bakersfield Blaze, many topics were on the table at the North of the River economic outlook conference. Business leaders shared their views of where they see the area now and in the future.
When the conference first began three years ago, about 100 people showed up. On Thursday, some 300 people were there. Many business experts say that's a sign people care and it shows in the improvements they are seeing.
Business and community members packed the conference to air their concerns.
"I think from Norris Road to the river, that area needs to be looked at closer and more cleanup," said Jeannette Gary with Citizens for a New Oildale.
And, they also shared successes.
"The corridor by the airport, the industrial corridor, there's always new tenants out there," said Chris Lowe, President of the NOR Chamber.
In that area too, there are new construction projects, both residential and commercial.
"Believe it or not, we have the lowest vacancy rate in the country. So, you are seeing renewed demand, interest in development. So family wage jobs and growth are definitely occurring here," said Richard Chapman, President and C.E.O. of Kern Economic Development Corporation.
Chapman says the employment growth here is on par with some of the best economies in the country. The only thing stopping it would be the workforce.
"Most of the skilled workers are employed. So, we need to get those who are sitting on the sidelines, to train them and take some of these jobs," said Chapman.
Conversations were also flowing about water. Now that old contracts have expired, Kern River expert Gene Bogart, says the city will restore water to the river in the first decent rain year.
"It replenishes the groundwater and 80 percent of our local water does come from groundwater. So, it's really important that we keep that supply available," said Bogart.
Also available, soon, Sam Lynn Ballpark. Once the Blaze owners build the new field off Rosedale Highway, they'll leave the old stadium, they believe, better than it was.
"Our hope is that it will be used for youth baseball or for high school tournaments or things like that. But, we did invest quite a bit of money," said Chad Hathaway, Co-owner of the Bakersfield Blaze.
Hathaway says what happens to Sam Lynn will be up to the county since it owns the land. As for the new stadium, Hathaway says they are working on financing, but hope to break ground at the end of this year and open in 2015.