Stanislaus leader on jobs, development to return to Midwest

mrowland@modbee.comMay 1, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textMarijke Rowland
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    Bio: Marijke Rowland has been a reporter at The Bee for 15 years. She grew up in the Midwest and has a degree in journalism from Indiana University. She has covered several beats at The Bee from education to entertainment to employment.
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— Bill Bassitt is resigning from his role as the county's chief economic development and work force training leader.

Bassitt is stepping down after 11 years as president and chief executive officer of the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance. His resignation will go into effect when his contract ends Aug. 16.

The 68-year-old plans to return to the Midwest, where he is from and much of his family still lives. He hopes to continue working in economic and work force development once there.

When he was hired in 2002, Bassitt was the first to helm the county's newly merged Workforce Investment Board and the Stanislaus County Economic Development Corp. The combination created the Alliance, which coordinates job creation and training in the region.

Over his tenure, Bassitt has seen the Central Valley boom and bust as the housing market bubble expanded rapidly and then crashed in 2007. When he started in 2002, unemployment in the county averaged just less than 10 percent. It dropped to an average of about 7 percent in 2005, and then ballooned to more than 17 percent in 2010. Bassitt said the economic volatility made his work challenging.

"The severity of that recession, the depth and length of it, all contributed to a really difficult economic environment," Bassitt said. "We feel things in the valley no one else in the state or country feels. That presented some really overwhelming obstacles to economic development. Bubbles are not good, unless they are in champagne."

Still, he said he is proud of his work with the Alliance and ability to shepherd the novel concept of the unified work force and economic development organizations.

Alliance board of directors Chairman Jeff Grover said Bassitt largely has exceeded the initial goals set for him when the Alliance launched.

"What we asked him to do had never been done before," Grover said. "Never had any organization attempted to train specifically for jobs in the community that employers had. He has worked to bring the resources of state and federal government in meeting training needs private employers have. A really good public-private partnership was formed."

Grover is leading the search committee for Bassitt's replacement and plans to have a successor selected before August. Bassitt landed the position after a nationwide search out of a field of 100 applicants.

Bassitt said even though he is leaving the area, he plans to keep an eye out for the valley and hopes for a bright future here.

"There is still a lot of opportunity here in the valley," he said. "In spite of some of the statistics and everything, we have some good members of the work force here. There's no question we have some quality people. Unfortunately in this economy, we have a lot of people who have skills and good qualities looking for work, and unfortunately there aren't enough jobs."

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on www.twitter.com/turlocknow.

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