It is time for us to revitalize our efforts and bring higher education to Lodi. The multiple benefits of either a community college or private four-year school would create job opportunities, increase property values and add to the richness of art and culture in our lovely city.
One only needs to look at other cities to see the value that higher educational institutions bring to their communities. For example, over the years, the Los Rios Community College has provided much for the Sacramento area. It has expanded from one campus to four main campuses and several educational centers.
In 2004, voters approved Measure L for San Joaquin Delta Community College. The $250 million bond issue was passed with the help of Lodi residents. One of the provisions was to create an educational center in the Lodi/Galt area. The city of Lodi, along with others representing industry, education and the arts, lobbied to have some of these funds spent for a new campus in our area.
Lodi did an economic impact study and identified a site on Highway 12 for purchase. Progress was being made, until the economic turndown and Delta's commitment to other projects sidetracked the issue. However, these did not change the need for a college in our area or negate a renewed effort toward that goal.
The city of Lodi's 2006 economic study demonstrated a large financial interest that a local college would bring. It's estimated that $37.5 million would be injected into our community each year from its everyday operations. Eventually, this figure would increase to $83 million, as the campus-projected strength would grow to 7,500 students.
Seventy-five percent of this would be in the form of salaries for more than 400 local jobs.
The report predicted a "multiplier effect" that could lead to the employment of over 2,000 additional people. Salaries, along with money spent by the school and students, would bring a huge boost to Lodi's economy.
The city cited data from a report sponsored by the San Joaquin Partnership and created by Angelou Economics. The report, commissioned by local business development proponents, recognized that "workforce and economic development are closely linked. A strong workforce leads to business recruitment ... and a long-term economic growth."
The report emphasized that our present economy, partly supported by the wine industry, creates a "new paradigm that demands that the local workforce offers a higher education and skill level." Of course, community colleges do just that. They provide both degree and certification programs that align with local workplace needs and provide a vocational bridge between high school and work.
The benefits of a college in our area go well beyond jobs and economics. Programs that support the arts, community service projects, instruction in English as a second language, guest speakers on a variety of topics and participation in our existing local events are examples of how a higher educational institution can enrich and enhance the culture of our city. Imagine what a college might contribute to the Sandhill Crane Festival or Hutchins Street Square activities!
But if Delta trustees want to have Lodi's future backing for any new bond issues, they should remember their commitment made to us when the vote was unanimous at the March 7, 2006 board meeting. At that time, these officials placed options on 168 acres of the Highway 12 property for our future local campus.
While a project of this size may not be possible in today's economic climate, the trustees should still strive to create our new local "educational center." In addition, they should not forget their previous commitment at a time when Lodi's support for Measure L was needed.
Bill Huyett is a former superintendent of the Lodi Unified School District.