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Attendees of the Annual Economic Outlook Conference heard from community leaders about the community's status and challenges. / Laura Austin Photos

The 36th Economic Outlook Conference met Thursday

By Patricia Farris News Review Publisher– 

The 36th Economic Outlet Conference, sponsored by the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce, convened Thursday at the Desert Valley Empire Fair.

The approximately 175 people who attended the conference heard messages from China Lake leadership and community leaders and a letter from the keynote speaker Dr. S. Aaron Hegde.

Eric Bruen

Early in the program, Mayor Eric Bruen spoke of upcoming improvements, one of which will be a $15 million expenditure in roadwork that will be coming up this year. “We are calling it ‘Carmageddon.’ As we will be doing extensive work on China Lake Blvd. This will be a 75-year infrastructure towards building our Waste Water Facility in 2025.

“As Disney buying LucasFilm led to the ‘awakening’ of the Star Wars brand, the dual challenge of the earthquakes and COVID awakened Ridgecrest. I am proud of our first 100 days and look forward to the days ahead when we continue to fulfill our commitment to communication and improving the community we all love.”

Bill Farris, President of the Sierra Sands Unified School District Board, spoke of the achievements and challenges of the District. He stated, “Last year at this time, we were still under mandated mask restrictions; many of our programs had been canceled, postponed, or were under heavy restrictions. That is not where we are today. Our academic, performance, athletic, and support programs have resumed with few limitations. 

Bill Farris

“As we expand our efforts to provide a well-rounded education, we are in the midst of an artistic renaissance. We received $2 million in State funding for the arts and an $800 annual allocation for music. Our performance programs are all growing.

“Teachers, administrators, and support staff are working hard, stretching, and finding creative ways to cover some of our personnel shortages. We are struggling to find long-term solutions.

“An exciting opportunity is we are receiving $78 million from the Federal Government to build a new Richmond Elementary School.”

He concluded by saying, “Let’s work together. Our challenges are many, and our future is bright.”

RDML Kieth Hash

Rear Admiral Keith Hash, Commander of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, spoke on the mission and capabilities provided through cutting-edge research at China Lake. He said, ”We deliver integrated and interoperable warfighting capabilities through cutting-edge research, development, acquisition, test, evaluation, and sustainment to provide the warfighter the decisive advantage. The Weapons Division can execute its mission in both natural and virtual environments.

The Weapons Divisions’ 6,000 civilian and military employees provide expertise in Weapons, Propulsion, Energetic Material, Aircraft System Integration, Electronic Warfare, Threat Target Systems, and Associated Research Development.” He reminded the community that the Navy payroll is more significant than $600 million. “Our vision is to give warfighters the best to win today, tomorrow, and into the future.”

Joseph Dosen of the Ridgecrest Area Association of Realtors reported on Ridgecrest growth. “We are seeing more and more individuals choosing to retire. And others choosing to work remotely here in Ridgecrest. Much of which can be attributed to affordable housing, low crime, and access to healthcare.”

More in-depth conference coverage in the upcoming editions of The News Review.