California Jobs FIrst (CERF) FOcus GRoups

Jill Sanford

Jill Sanford

Communications Director

As regional conveners of the Eastern Sierra California Jobs First (CERF) Region, Sierra Business Council is currently engaged in a stakeholder mapping process that includes engaging disinvested community members in a sustainable and equitable economic planning process. Our goal is to provide an inclusive forum in which community members feel encouraged to participate in, and ownership of, CERF plans and strategies that will diversify the local economy and develop sustainable industries, creating high-quality, broadly accessible jobs in this 7-county region. 

The exclusion of certain groups from planning efforts and economic opportunities has long been a recurring issue in the Eastern Sierra region, and it affects diverse communities, including tribal, Latino workers, and others. Disinvested communities in the Eastern Sierra CERF region are impacted by structural racism, linguistic isolation, an inflated cost of living due to the tourism economy, the absence of higher education and training programs, the prevalence of low-wage jobs, and long travel distances for work, school, and social services (including healthcare). 

These issues are prevalent throughout the state, but as highlighted in this report on Equitable Economic Development Across California, disinvested community members in rural regions are lacking critical investment in comparison with other regions of the state. 

Community members who are often overlooked in this region and excluded from high-level economic development planning include (but are not limited to): Tribal, Latino, English language learners, the elderly, and those with limited access to educational opportunities, basic services, and employment opportunities.

To engage disinvested community members and ensure their needs and contributions are factored into our CERF efforts, SBC’s CERF team has begun holding focus groups to meet with these community members and invite them to weigh in on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that need to be factored into our planning efforts. 

East Side (Alpine, Mono, & Inyo Counties) Process: 

Spearheaded by our East Side Project Navigator, Magnolia Barra, and ESCOG’s Elaine Kabala, focus groups on the east side of the Sierra are already underway, involving both in-person and virtual participation. We’re incorporating a SWOT exercise in both English and Spanish at each of these meetings, with several groups being done in Spanish only. 

We have identified key points for our focus groups during facilitation planning by defining objectives, identifying target audiences, and selecting key locations where disinvested communities are predominant. 

We’ve advertised these focus group sessions through flyers, online channels, and word of mouth, and we have asked partnering organizations, county workers, and tribal members to share with their contacts, as well.

We have done 11 Focus Groups from Tecopa to Markleeville on the East Side that have allowed us to identify common themes, patterns, and trends. We have organized the insights from the focus groups, highlighting key takeaways, trends, and quotes. We intend to keep working closely with these communities as we move forward in the CERF process.

SBC will be publishing summaries of the following East Side Focus Group meetings in the Regional Summary we will be submitting to the state. However, high-level overviews of who we met with and the incentives provided can be found below: 

Eastside (Bishop) Tribal Focus Group 

Community: Bishop Paiute Tribe
Focus Group Activity: SWOT
Focus Group Location: Bishop Paiute Cultural Center, 2300 West Line Street, Bishop, CA 
Focus Group Date and Time: May 25, 2023 at 1:00 pm
Number of Participants: 9
Incentive Amount/Type: $25.00 gift card and lunch provided
Number of Incentives Accepted: 7

Eastside Lone Pine Focus Group

Community: Lone Pine
Focus Group Activity: SWOT
Focus Group Location: Statham Hall, 138 North Jackson, Lone Pine, CA
Focus Group Date and Time: July 14th, 2023 at 3:00 pm
Number of Participants: 14
Incentive Amount/Type: $25.00 gift card and lunch provided
Number of Incentives Accepted: 12

Eastside Bridgeport Focus Group 

Community: Bridgeport
Focus Group Activity: SWOT
Focus Group Location: Bridgeport Community Center
Focus Group Date and Time: July 12th, 2023 at 3:00 pm
Number of Participants: 5
Incentive Amount/Type: $25.00 gift card and lunch provided
Number of Incentives Accepted:5

Eastside Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership (ESSRP) Focus Group 

Community: Regionwide Land Management Agencies
Focus Group Activity: Economic Development Activity Overview
Focus Group Location: Virtual via the monthly ESSRP meeting 
Focus Group Date and Time: Monday, July 10, 2023, at 3:30 pm
Number of Participants: 40
Incentive Amount/Type: none
Number of Incentives Accepted:0

Hispanic Community Focus Group 

Community: Hispanic Community Mammoth Lakes 
Focus Group Activity: CERF presentations and SWOT analysis
Focus Group Location: Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church
Focus Group Date and Time: 06/04/2023 2:00 PM
Number of Participants:12
Incentive Amount/Type:$25 Gift Cards refreshments and pastries provided 
Number of Incentives Accepted:12

Hispanic Community Focus Group

Community: Bishop Hispanic Community 
Focus Group Activity: CERF overview and SWOT analysis 
Focus Group Location: Bishop Consolidated County Building 
Focus Group Date and Time: 06/04/2023 4:00 PM  
Number of Participants:9
Incentive Amount/Type:$25 Gift Cards and light dinner refreshments provided 
Number of Incentives Accepted:9

Alpine county CERF Virtual overview 

Community: Alpine County
Focus Group Activity: Virtual CERF overview and jam board SWOT exercise 
Focus Group Location: ZOOM
Focus Group Date and Time: 07/21/2023
Number of Participants:3
Incentive Amount/Type: NONE
Number of Incentives Accepted:0

Southeast Inyo County Focus Group 

Community: Tecopa Shoshone 
Focus Group Activity: Virtual Focus Group and Jamboard  SWOT exercise 
Focus Group Location: Zoom
Focus Group Date and Time: 07/20/2023 12:00 PM
Number of Participants:1
Incentive Amount/Type:0
Number of Incentives Accepted:0

West Side (Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa & Toulumne Counties) Process: 

West Side Project Navigator Kara Bechtle has also begun planning focus groups on the west side of the Sierra, involving both in-person and virtual participation. We’re incorporating a SWOT exercise in both English and Spanish at each of these meetings. 

The disinvested communities we are meeting with include college students, young Columbia College faculty members, members from the Tuolumne unhoused community, Southern Me Wuk tribe members in Mariposa County, migrant farm workers in Amador County, rural residents who are impacted by power outage issues (such as well owners), public health leaders, local small business owners, and community action agencies. We are partnering with organizations throughout the region including Resiliency Village, ATCAA, Motherlode Job Training Center, Columbia College Student Services, Sonora Area Foundation, and Calaveras ~Mariposa Community Action Agency. 

Focus groups on the west side begin on August 29th and are scheduled through early October.

Two upcoming focus grounds include: 

Westside Focus Group: Columbia College Students

Wednesday, September 13,2:00 – 3:30 pm

Westside Focus Group: Young Faculty (Tentative Date)

Wednesday, September 13,4:00 – 5:30 pm 

 Please reach out to CERF@sierrabusiness.org with questions about the focus groups or our stakeholder engagement process. 

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