By Miguel Gonzalez
Editor & Founder
(Barstow)– Barstow’s marketing slogan of “Crossroads of Opportunity” fits very well with the current challenges facing the city of about 25,000 residents.
On Tuesday, locals went to the polls and re-elected incumbent council members Tim Silva and Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre. Fresh off his re-election victory, Silva pledged to continue work towards solutions that can position Barstow in place of advantage before the economy hits a robust cycle.
Asked to identify the three biggest challenges his city must address to create and promote a level of economic prosperity, Silva identified infrastructure, more jobs for locals and a bigger choice in housing options as the three top factors.
Silva highlighted the city is finally getting some funding to repave roads and streets, which are so vital to attract businesses to the area. “Our infrastructure has been neglected for so long and we are finally starting to address the issue,” Silva said. “With construction costs going down, we have implemented group projects to repair our infrastructure.”
Silva listed his desire to improve the number of restaurants and similar retail to the area. Entertainment was also a topic of discussion with the need for an improvement to the current movie theater.
A CITY UNITED
Many of Silva’s hopes for better local jobs lie with the development of a centrally located industrial park that has already been able to attract clients such as a Wal-Mart distribution center, among others. “At full build-out, the industrial park could mean about 10,000 jobs,” he said.
Silva feels that the City Council has the support of residents and the business community. “No change in the council (during the elections) must mean that we are doing something right,” he said.
Last but certainly not least, Silva considered the options in housing in Barstow must increase to ensure the city will attract more companies and families. “We are competing with cities in the Victor Valley where (abundant) housing makes life more affordable. People will take jobs here but will buy a house elsewhere to save some money.”
To remedy the housing dilemma, Silva said the city is working through its Redevelopment Agency to create programs that will help with down payment assistance.
In addition, Barstow is working with local junior colleges to better prepare a work force that can accommodate the growth in employment for its industrial park. “Smart growth is better than fast growth. We believe we can be a thriving city when the economy comes back.”
Editor’s note: Council member Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre was contacted for this story, but did not return a call for comment as of Saturday night. We anticipate quoting Ms. McIntyre in future positive stories about Barstow.