Stanislaus Co.

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Stanislaus Co.
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Stanislaus County, California – assessment started in April 2000

Location

Stanislaus County is about 1.5 hours drive east of San Francisco in the San Joaquin Valley.

Size, Economy

The County has a population of about 420,000 people. 75% of the population lives in the nine incorporated cities: Modesto, Turlock, Ceres, Oakdale, Riverbank, Patterson, Waterford, Newman, and Hughson. The other people live in unincorporated areas.

The primary industry is food products, including milk, almonds, chickens turkeys, grapes, walnuts, cattle, tomatoes, and peaches. The area is seeing rapid growth in manufacturing and technology-based businesses.

California State University has a campus in Turlock.

Average income and education levels are significantly below national averages.

Leadership

The County government provided leadership for Connecting Stanislaus County. Richard Jantz, Deputy Executive Officer for Stanislaus County organized meetings and coordinated the program. The Great Valley Center, a non-profit economic development organization provided some support.

Motivation, Goals

In 1997, the County and Cities launched a county-wide visioning process. They saw a need to develop an economic development strategy that would attract higher quality jobs with higher wages than were being paid in the food processing industries. One element in the vision focused on communications infrastructure:

The cities and County of Stanislaus will adopt policies and practices to take full advantage of advances in communication technologies including:

  1. Establishment and maintenance of a state-of-the-art network serving all areas of the county.
  2. Use of technology to engage citizens more actively in public issues and to improve inter-agency communications.

3. Establishment of sites and services to attract technology-based business.

The County saw the CSPP assessment as a tool to get the community to develop a strategy to get going on the communications infrastructure piece of the vision.

Planning Committee

The County formed a Steering Committee to help organize the assessment. Committee members came from all of the major sectors of the economy, including the university, agriculture, and communications services. Each city provided a senior manager for the committee; their participation was critical to the success of the program.

The committee helped ensure broad representation from all over the county for the assessment workshops.

Assessment

Because of the large size of the County, the committee decided to hold multiple workshops, each with 3 sectors. The workshops were conducted in three successive sessions in one and half days. Each workshop had 40-50 participants.

Assessment:

Urban Infrastructure
Rural Infrastructure
Schools & Libraries
Businesses
Agriculture
Healthcare
Government Community-Based Organizations
3
2
2
2
2+
2
3
1

A key point that emerged from the assessment was the disparity in services between the urban centers, principally Modesto and Turlock, and the smaller and more rural communities. ISDN service was available everywhere for about $100/month but few people or businesses used it. Some people complained their telephone lines could not support a 56K modem. Some of the smaller cities did not have web sites. Very few small businesses were using the Internet regularly for commercial transactions.

The full assessment report is available on-line as an Adobe Acrobat (pdf) file.

Communications

Committee meetings were open to the press. The local newspaper ran occasional stories on the program. A story on the baseline communications assessment (see next section) was particularly effective at raising the community’s awareness of the quality of the infrastructure.

The committee decided not to release a report when the assessment was completed. Instead they began work on action initiatives. A report that combines the assessment and summary of action initiatives is going to the County Board of Supervisors in January, 2001 and members of the steering committee. A 6 page brochure with both assessment results and action initiatives will be distributed widely to the public.

Action Initiatives

Infrastructure. The communications companies volunteered to create a "baseline assessment" of communications services. With the help of the County they created a map of the county showing what services were available to which communities today, and which communities would have services within a year. The assessment revealed that a few communities were not going to be served by any of the major providers. In one case, shortly after the assessment was published in the newspaper, a new company announced plans to serve one of the smaller towns. Another new company announced plans to offer wireless broadband services to the region using an abandoned radio tower.

The summary report cities the following additional action initiatives:

1. Develop Targeted Technology Training Programs:

Four groups want special training on Internet-related technologies: agricultural businesses, small and medium enterprises, healthcare providers, and community-based organizations. To develop specialized curricula we will form partnerships between the local educational institutions, business leaders and trade associations. We will also develop a campaign to promote the availability of the new classes to the target groups.

2. Build a Community Information Portal:

Finding the right department or agency that serves your community can be a challenge. We need a "no wrong door" portal on the Web to help businesses, residents, and visitors find the government and community information they need quickly and conveniently. A team consisting of the local city governments, the county government, a local newspaper and a private business are developing a design for the site and a business strategy to assure its long-term success.

3. Adopt E-Commerce Practices in Business and Government:

With the help of trade associations, we will identify industry segments that do a lot of business-to-business and business-to-government transactions. We will select the groups where technology can make a difference, and seek out best practices and technical solutions. We hope local entrepreneurs will develop solutions where none exist today, creating new national and international businesses, and role models for the rest of the world.

We are also investigating opportunities to streamline permitting for agricultural industries. On-line permitting can save time for growers, reduce trips to City Hall and facilitate collecting data for analysis.

4. Bridging the Digital Divide:

Educators agree that more needs to be done to help parents get involved with their children's education. We are looking for ways to recycle used computers and get them into the homes of low-income parents. Then we need Internet connections and training so parents can e-mail their children's teachers, keep up with assignments, and get advice on how they can help their children learn. Parents can also have immediate access to the school calendar.

Our community-based organizations also need computers. The recycling center can help meet that need in partnership with training organizations to provide classes on using technology in the not-for-profit sector.

We will compile a directory of public access centers where those who can not afford to own computers can use e-mail and the Internet to obtain information they need.

5. Government On-Line:

Almost every city in Stanislaus County has a web site, but only a few offer any on-line services today. City officials are now meeting to develop their e-government strategies and share lessons learned. They are also looking for ways to reduce costs by sharing internally developed software, and jointly purchasing software packages from vendors.

6. A Centralized Geographic Information System:

Realizing that a regional GIS program must have an organized and sustainable hub, this initiative outlines a proposal that begins with a centralized GIS component at the county government level. Once the hub is established, additional partner jurisdictions and agencies will be encouraged to participate so that eventually the county hub will become a regional (countywide) joint power system.

7. Technology Fair

The County put together a public event that attracted over a thousand people.  There were contests for best website designs by students.  The event was such a success that it is being repeated in 2002.  See the Connecting Stanislaus website for more information.

Comments

Working on a county scale with multiple cities was challenging. The process went more slowly at times. Richard Jantz was careful to personally invite City Managers to all the appropriate meetings.

The communications companies provided good support for the program, though responses to questions often took a long time.

The action initiative meetings were very fruitful. As in Santa Clarita, some participants did not wait for formal approval to launch initiatives. The Internet for farmers classes took place within a couple months of discussing the idea. The agriculture department is proceeding with plans to put pesticide permits on-line. The Cities are designing the portal. The school superintendent discovered that he needed to gather a lot more data on the use of computers in schools.

It will be interesting to see how the County Supervisors receive the proposals for action initiatives. Some will require public funding. The computer recycling program and computers for parents will be very challenging.

 

 
Copyright © 2005 Connected Communitiessm
Last modified: December 31, 2004