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2014 has been a good economic year for Stanislaus County
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It's been a great start to our new economic development direction in Stanislaus County. Let me point out where we have made progress.

- Collaboration between the Alliance, cities, Chambers of Commerce and the county
This past year we have worked hard as economic developers throughout the county to be more collaborative. We initiated a monthly practitioners' meeting where each city, the local Chambers of Commerce, the county, the utilities and other economic developers can work with us at the Alliance to coordinate economic development projects and initiatives. We have begun to assemble standards of excellence in every aspect of what we do.

We have also started the practice of sending out all our leads to our partners in economic development and real estate. Of course, we don't share the name of the company, but we share the requirement. That way, everyone has an equal chance to submit a property for consideration. If a community does not have a property to submit, it is good intel for them to see what kind of projects we are getting.

- Local Industry Program
We initiated a vibrant local industry program in which we have visited more than 200 companies to learn how we can better serve them. We have learned from them what issues need to be addressed. We are reporting those issues to the appropriate service providers. We are also doing what we can to address these issues. We have picked up more than 40 expansion projects from these visits. We have also taken along our economic development partners on several calls to help further build our relationship with them.

- Marketing and Communications
We have created a new weekly newsletter, Inside Out, through which we are communicating good news about our local economy, the work that we do as an organization, and information about events and opportunities to the companies we serve. We also created a new monthly newsletter, Economic Development Update, that goes out to site selection consultants, prospects and other key contacts to promote economic development opportunities in Stanislaus County. We are now working on updating our marketing materials and website to present the county in a much more effective way.

- Innovation Initiatives
We started the Stanislaus Innovation Challenge which is a series of pitch nights where local entrepreneurs can compete for cash and in kind services. Companies competed at events in Modesto, Oakdale, Patterson and Turlock. The final challenge will be next week on December 10 in Modesto. The winner and other competitors will be enlisted in the San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge early next year.

We organized the Innovation Council, a group of local innovators and serial entrepreneurs, to help us create a strategy for innovation throughout Stanislaus County.

- Jump Start Stanislaus
We created a new workforce development initiative, Jump Start Stanislaus, to make employers aware of various workforce incentives. The first component was an On The Job Training initiative to help employers hire qualified applicants and receive reimbursement for a portion of the new hires' wages during the training period. Our goal was 50 qualified applicants being hired. We were able to double that.

- Business Recruitment
As a county, we had a pretty good year. We were able to attract Restoration Hardware's new fulfillment center in Patterson, Hilmar Cheese Company's new dry milk processing plant in Turlock and UK-based Botanics and Organics in Modesto. We know of several other companies in the pipeline and look forward to those companies making announcements soon.

We have a lot of work yet to do, but it is a good start. And most of it is because of you. Economic development is a team sport and requires all of us to be engaged to make our county stronger.