“It does not surprise me because we had a great plan,” said Opportunity Stanislaus CEO David White.
The investment that put the organization over the top came from Savemart Supermarkets, which joined 21 other businesses in giving at least $25,000 a year for five years. That put the total raised at $5.1 million.
Dozens of other local businesses invested in amounts ranging from 1,000-$10,000 a year.
Opportunity Stanislaus will use that money to fund its strategic economic development plan for Stanislaus County. The first step was to transition the publicly run Stanislaus Business Alliance to a private organization.
During a series of interviews with the business community conducted by the group Funding Solutions, the Business Alliance found business owners liked its staff and new leadership but thought the organization was ineffective.
“We were also perceived as a government-centric organization, and because of that, the private sector was wary about getting involved,” White said.
He added that Opportunity Stanislaus’ new structure allows for more accountability.
White credits Funding Solutions for guiding the transition and setting up the new organization for success. It led the exhaustive survey of the business community, which helped get stakeholders on board and identified four key areas of focus.
Those areas are business development, workforce readiness, messaging and innovation.
While Opportunity Stanislaus is working on all areas, it will put a big focus this year on workforce readiness by opening a training center in the next 12 months.
The center is similar to one in Everett, Washington that trains people to work at Boeing.
“That program is private sector driven. Their tagline is ‘12 weeks to a career,’” said White. “It’s a very intense program, in a short time frame.”
Opportunity Stanislaus has not yet decided which jobs the center will focus on, but White said they will be jobs in the manufacturing sector which are in high demand and have been difficult to fill. Possibilities include maintenance mechanics, forklift drivers and electricians.