The Lodi Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City lunch is an entertaining affair for those who stay close to Lodi's public life. It's always a refreshing overview of the year's news and upcoming events. It was livelier this year, because the speakers laced their thought with quips, quick wit and standup comedy.
These are some of our favorite pronouncement and punchlines:
- We liked this line from Chamber chief Pat Patrick, extolling the virtues of business networking: "You know what the opposite of networking is? — Not working."
- Although philanthropist John Ledbetter's presentation on the Lodi Community Foundation lacked some details, we love the idea that people can donate — even leave money in their wills — to create a more lovable Lodi. We predict the foundation will one day become a powerful generator of goodness.
- We're not sure what Mayor Bob Johnson meant when he said building a new generator will give Lodi a more dependable power source. The new plant may save money and create some electrons just for us, but they will go onto the state's power grid and get mixed up with everybody else's electrons. Right now our electricity flows into town along a single PG&E line from Lockeford. On hot days it's almost maxed out, and when that line goes down, Lodi gets hot and dark.
So we asked city spokesman Jeff Hood about it and got a bit of good news to add to the state of the city message: The council will have a shirtsleeves session "soon," said Hood, about building a new transmission line. It will run into town from the energy plant and power lines west of us. It's been talked about for ages. We hope the talk ends and the wires go up — soon.
- We are as thrilled as the mayor to see the new water treatment plant go up. It's the biggest effort to date to reverse depletion of our groundwater. Some future mayor is going to find it very hard to be funny the year we run out of well water.
- Can public education be innovative? Lodi Unified School District is coping with budget woes, but George Neely, a former attack helicopter pilot in the military (as well as a retired General Electric exec and a former teacher) revealed a district that's pro-active, not reactive. It's pushing online programs and expanding campuses to reel back students, and their all-important tax dollars, who've been studying elsewhere. That includes special education students studying in private settings and those who've been expelled. The board includes several teachers and former teachers, and some we've talked with fretted the district might cling to the status quo. Neely, though, described a district that's becoming downright entrepreneurial.
- There is money in plastics, at least in Lodi. Johnson cited two local business success stories, both of which create plastic products. Quashnick Tool Company recently bought $800,000 in new machinery. And Scientific Specialties spent $9 million to expand its operations by 70,000 square-feet. Scientific Specialties, which makes science and research equipment (think test tubes and pipettes) and sells it worldwide, now occupies 127,000 square-feet total in Lodi's industrial area off Thurman Road. That's as big as most Walmarts.
- Grape grower Bill Lauchland's summary of LoCA made a very rational case for the new marketing effort by local grape growers. Until now, their Lodi Winegrape Commission focused on telling winemakers, wine wholesalers, wine writers and wine marketing experts about the quality of local grapes. LoCA ads, videos and webpages will be aimed instead at wine drinkers. The idea is to let those who enjoy California wine know what special wines come from Lodi, California. It's not a "loca" idea. It's the logical next chapter in the history of Lodi wines.
- Patrick announced the Chamber has booked satirist Will Durst to appear once again at the Chamber's Leadership Forum. Durst was a crack-up at the initial event in June, tossing barbs at the political right, left and center. His website proclaims Durst provides comedy for "People who read or know someone who does."
Here's the kind of Durstian insight you might look forward to at the next forum: "Slamming D.C. It may be the singular most popular political game around today. Everybody does it. Even incumbents go out of their way to blame Washington for everything that's wrong with the country. A lot like a baseball manager complaining that his team suffers from a crippling lack of quality coaching."