A sign in the window of a Blythe business reminds people to shop local.
A sign in the window of a Blythe business reminds people to shop local. (Yannick Peterhans for TN News)

The Riverside County board of supervisors Tuesday allocated $75,000 in federal funding to conduct an economic resiliency study in the city of Blythe.

“What we’re trying to accomplish with this study is to identify what potential future economic development opportunities and initiatives could be undertaken in the Blythe area to create jobs, tourism, investments,” Rob Moran, deputy director of the Office of Economic Development, said. “And so really it’s just a way for us to kind of analyze what potential opportunities could be available to us in the community moving forward.”

Suzanne Holland, director of the Office of Economic Development, said the office wanted to use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to pay for the cost of the study since “Blythe and the surrounding unincorporated communities were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”

“Utilizing the economic recovery category, the Office of Economic Development started working on an economic resiliency study,” she said. “Then, of course in…December of 2022, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced a proposal to close the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison which of course would [exacerbate] those already [negative] economic impacts that the city of Blythe and the surrounding communities of Ripley and Mesa Verde would be reeling from.”

According to an earlier report commissioned by the city of Blythe, the prison closure could result in a loss of nearly $3 million for the city and close to $5 million for the Palo Verde Unified School District.

Moran said the study, which started a couple of months ago, would first take a look at the area’s demographics, population, geographic locations and economic situation to understand the community’s starting point. From there, he said the study would look at what potential opportunities could become available for the community and what actions may need to be taken for that opportunity to be realized.

“It’s kind of an overarching item,” he said. “It’s not going to be like a detailed study with implementation plans for each concept or idea. It’s just saying, based on the current situation and future actions, there are some things that could be beneficial to that area of the county, and these are maybe some of the partners that should be involved in some of the things that could be undertaken.”

Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, whose district includes Blythe, said the county does what it can to support the community when it comes to economic development, but said the city’s remoteness is an ongoing challenge.

The board also allocated $25,000 in ARPA funding for a temporary public restroom facility in Idyllwild

In other action: The board unanimously approved the Highway 74 Community Plan, which would allow for future development alongside the highway.

A video of the meeting can be found here on the county’s website

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.

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