When the subject of unemployment came up, Johnston asked Mike Locke of San Joaquin Partnership, an economic development group, to describe the group's attempt to recruit a retail distribution center.
Locke said Stockton was competing with Phoenix for a facility that was to employee some 900 people as Macy's Inc. expanded its online operations.
"We lost that project because of what they defined as a rough workforce," he said.
This is not just a Stockton problem, but a problem for the entire San Joaquin Valley.
The region has generally been unsuccesful in attracting private industry outside the agriculture sector. If you spend any time with local economic developers, you know the primary reason is that companies are scared off by the workforce indicators such as literacy and education levels. Although some California problems such as costs and regulation also cause problems, workforce skills are typically the biggest negative factor.
These aren't high-tech companies, but semi-skilled employers like light manufacturing, distribution centers, customer service centers, etc. and are exactly what the Valley needs. I think some of these companies get too scared off by the numbers, and will be able to find the workers they need here.