By David Benda, Record Searchlight, October 2011

In an annual report, Economic Development Corporation of Shasta County President Mark Lascelles told investors his active folder of prospects went from two a year ago to 18 in June.

The list includes high-tech companies, sports drink bottlers and fabrication firms, Lascelles said.

The EDC’s 2010-11 report, released this week, also noted the group’s revamped website, work on a competitive market study that shows how Shasta County stacks up against other communities, and a retention effort that kept a manufacturer from
leaving the area.

“We are building the pipeline,” Lascelles said of the EDC’s work since he became president in September 2010. “The community will judge us on results, when they see companies starting to come to town. Unfortunately, most of what happens before
that is not physical.”

The EDC played a role this year in convincing a firm that makes storage bins used by natural gas and oil extractors to expand in Shasta County.

Working with Chris Young of Coldwell Banker C&C Properties (an EDC investor), Lascelles’ group helped Anderson-based TBM Sand and Storage Logistics find the former Fintech Precast Plant on Clear Creek Road in Redding.

TBM purchased the foreclosed property for about $1 million last spring and expects to start production there in December, company President Lisa Lavoie said. The plant expects to employ 12 to 15 people when it opens.

Lavoie said her business’s growth is driven by the rapid expansion of hydraulic fracturing in the United States, which now helps produce more than 7 billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas annually, according to the
American Petroleum Institute.

“The type of equipment we build is very sought-after,” Lavoie said. “Most manufacturers of oil field equipment are booked out for a couple of years.”

Lavoie credits the EDC with shepherding her company through the permitting process.

“He (Lascelles) has been absolutely helpful,” Lavoie said.

Lascelles believes the EDC’s new website, which debuted in July, also will help local firms like TBM Sand and out-of-area companies considering a move here to make better informed decisions.

The site features a “data cart” function that allows users to create a file for Shasta County. They can drop pdf files and other relative statistics about the north state into the cart. It’s the first time such a feature has been available
on an economic development website, Lascelles says.

The enthusiasm Lascelles has brought to his job has convinced some to financially back the 53-year-old nonprofit organization, in some cases returning after letting their membership lapse. The EDC welcomed nine new or returning investors —
including the Record Searchlight — over the past year.

“We’ve been extremely favorably impressed with Mark Lascelles’ energy … to the point we are very enthusiastic that he is going to have some success, so we are happy to be contributing,” said Les Melburg of Nichols Melburg & Rossetto
Architects, one of the new investors.

Lascelles has worked to rebuild after support had waned. Some of the decline in investors was tied to the housing market crash, which Lascelles says eroded support from builders.

Nichols Melburg & Rossetto was an EDC investor for years until the middle of last decade. The company had become disenchanted and frustrated with the organization and what Melburg described as a “lack of progress.”

“One of the things you like when you donate is to send money to someplace where you think it is going to do some good,” Melburg said.

The architectural firm invested $2,500, but it has vowed to commit an additional $5,000 to $10,000 per year in pro bono work to help the EDC attract jobs to Shasta County, Melburg said.

At 51 private and public investors, the EDC still hasn’t returned to the level of five years ago, when it had 60. But Lascelles believes the group’s aggressive marketing campaign will prompt more interest.

The drop in support has affected the EDC’s budget, projected to be $380,000 over the next year. It was roughly $575,000 five years ago.

This week Lascelles is in Dallas attending a solar manufacturing trade show. He is accompanying Team California for the event.

The trade show is in a state whose governor, Rick Perry, has made headlines for his efforts to woo California companies by marketing Texas as a low cost and business friendly alternative.

Lascelles has encountered California companies at this week’s event.

“I set up a couple of appointments this morning,” Lascelles said Tuesday by phone from Dallas. “One is with a California company looking to grow its manufacturing side, but they don’t want to go too far from the Silicon Valley.”