High-Speed Rail Will Provide Many Benefits in the Central Valley

By Lee Ann Eager, Fresno County Economic Development Corporation

***Editor’s Note: The following article is one viewpoint on California’s High-Speed Rail project. On Jan. 30, an opposing viewpoint was published in the article “Current High Speed Rail Plan Will Cost Too Much, Deliver Too Little.”

Since 2012, the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has assisted local businesses and property owners who have been impacted by the California High-Speed Rail (HSR) project. As the leading economic development agency in the region, we have witnessed first-hand the positive economic impacts that HSR construction is having on our communities.

High-speed rail is changing our economy. Our small and disadvantaged businesses are being awarded contracts, thousands of jobs have been created, and infrastructure improvements are being made throughout the City and County of Fresno — something that would have otherwise taken decades to realize. Looking beyond construction, we are preparing our workforce for long-term, higher-wage employment in rail maintenance and operations, and even more jobs will emerge in industries supporting the new rail system. In addition, a completed HSR system will connect the Central Valley with the largest economies in the state, fostering continued economic development in business, technology, and agricultural sectors.

High-Speed Rail Impacts:

  • 119 miles of construction-related activity underway
  • $3.2 billion invested in the Central Valley since 2006
  • Fresno-area unemployment under 10% for the first time since 2008
  • 6,800 job-years of employment created since 2009
  • Generated $1.2 billion in total economic activity in the Central Valley
  • 30% of relocated businesses able to expand

From a broader perspective, CA High-Speed Rail is part of an environmentally sound solution to the state’s growing transportation needs. This is extremely important as California’s population is expected to grow to 44 million by 2030 and near 50 million by 2050. Strategic investments are also being made in urban, commuter, and intercity rail systems that will supplement the HSR “backbone” and significantly improve mobility and connectivity throughout the state. Finally, breaking ground on the first true high-speed rail system in the U.S. has already enhanced California’s competitiveness in the global economy as other countries consider investment in American high-speed rail. Here in Fresno County we have seen an unprecedented increase in business interest in our area from around the world.

Small Business Participation:

  • 427 Certified Small Businesses
  • 139 Certified Disadvantaged Businesses
  • 51 Certified Disabled Veteran Businesses

We here in the Central Valley do not want to be known as the place with high unemployment, high poverty, low wages, and high rates of childhood asthma. We are ready for the positive changes that the California High-Speed Rail project will bring. We are ready to be the high-speed rail “hub” for the whole nation — to train people from all over the United States on the first of its kind high-speed rail system. We are preparing for our future — a future that includes high paying jobs and cutting edge ideas. Fresno County and the Central Valley are finally at the center of a new and exciting transformative infrastructure project, and it is proving to be an economic game changer.

Lee Ann Eager is President and CEO of the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation. The opinions in this article are presented in the spirit of spurring discussion and reflect those of the author and not necessarily the Treasurer, his office or the State of California.