By David Benda, Record Searchlight, June 2011

The message Mark Lascelles delivers hasn’t changed.

In the nine months as president of the Economic Development Corp. of Shasta County, Lascelles, a former estate broker, is talking up the importance of good-paying jobs.

“I’m not doing anything different than what was done before, but I’m carrying that message into the community,” said the 57-year-old Lascelles, who also emphasizes the work he says his predecessors did.

Lascelles replaced Greg O’Sullivan, who resigned in April 2010 after just over two years on the job.

Since Lascelles took over in September, he and the EDC have worked to keep at least two companies in Shasta County.

Eko Research, a firm that focuses on manufacturing sustainable construction materials, plans to expand into a 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot facility in Redding.

TBM Sand and Storage Logistics LLC purchased the former Fintech plant in Redding in April for about $1 million. The company will manufacture storage bins used by natural gas and oil extractors.

There also have been disappointments.

Southern Aluminum Finishing, a company poised to build the first manufacturing plant in Stillwater Business Park, postponed its plans because the economy has diminished demand for its product.

Lascelles stresses patience, adding that California’s economic mess didn’t happen overnight.

The EDC is a nonprofit that receives money from private industry and government to operate.

In his short time as chief, Lascelles has not been bashful about making the rounds, talking to real estate groups, Rotaries and anybody else who will listen.

Lascelles’ efforts are a fundraising pitch to current and potential investors. But he says it’s also important that individuals and businesses know that everybody is responsible for economic recruitment — the EDC can’t do it alone.

“He has been more than willing to get out and talk,” said EDC board member and Northern Valley Catholic Social Service Executive Director Don Chapman. “He seeks out the opportunities; he’s a marketer, but you are selling the area.”

Indeed, Lascelles has an extensive marketing background, having owned Real Estate Professionals LTD for 13 years before he sold the company in 2007.

When he’s not selling the importance of jobs, the New Zealand native and his business Crying Out Loud can be found staging benefit auctions for nonprofits in the area.

Michael Pohlmeyer, a financial adviser and former Redding City councilman, said Lascelles has re-energized the EDC, while demanding the same kind of enthusiasm from his board.

“We have slowly begun replacing some people on the board with other people who may have a little more energy,” said Pohlmeyer, a current EDC board member. “We have expectations of him as executive director, but appropriately he has expectations
of us.”

The EDC soon will unveil a new website that Pohlmeyer says will be more user-friendly and bring the organization into the 21st century.

Lascelles believes the revamped website will help the EDC make better use of technology in its pursuit of companies.

“It makes it easier to find suitable companies to relocate here,” Lascelles said. “It makes it easier for companies to find us; it adds to the cultivation process.”

Later this month, Lascelles will release a competitive market report that investigates what other Western states and communities are doing to lure companies and jobs.

<[>The report, which is being done in-house, is a first for the EDC, Lascelles said.

Advocates like Ken White, who thinks not enough is done to bring better-paying jobs to Shasta County, hope the EDC will use the report to press city leaders to do more for economic development.

“Unless we make that a priority, we will continue to languish,” said White, community relations director for the Good News Rescue Mission. “I know people can point to efforts that have been made, but it seems to be a back-burner issue, not
a front-burner issue.”

More jobs that pay a livable wage, says White, will mean fewer people seeking out the services of the Good News Rescue Mission, which provides food and shelter to the homeless.

Pohlmeyer acknowledged that the EDC in recent years wasn’t doing a good job of getting out its message to private investors. That and the economic downturn were causing companies to stop giving money to the organization, he said.

Said Chapman: “You get accustomed of doing things a certain way and things do change. I think (the EDC) has benefitted from his (Lascelles’) energy.”

In a sense, Lascelles is re-branding the 52-year-old organization, the second oldest private economic development corporation in California. When he came to Redding in 1982, Lascelles said manufacturing jobs represented 15 percent of the area’s
workforce. Today, that number has plunged to less than 4 percent.

“My goal is within 10 years to get it back to 10 percent,” Lascelles said.

One image Lascelles wants to eschew is that his organization is out looking for “smokestack companies.”

It’s a perception that’s rooted in part with Knauf Insulation, the Shasta Lake manufacturer with some 125 employees that opened in 2002 after years of delays fueled by heated public debate and appeals to the permitting process.

Meanwhile, with the opening of Stillwater Business Park and with institutions like Simpson University and Bethel Church, which both draw young people from around the country, Lascelles is convinced the area has the resources to attract employers.