California projects a savings of $122 million annually from closing the California Correctional Center. That money should be reinvested in Susanville in ways that spur increased economic activity here and would ultimately pay for itself through tax revenues.
In the short term, the California Office of Tourism could actively seek to boost Susanville’s visibility. Everyone knows Lake Tahoe, but comparatively few know Susanville exists. Even in Reno, there are many ads for Tahoe, but none for Susanville. Surely, many people who find Tahoe too expensive would visit the far less crowded, more affordable and equally scenic Susanville, if they knew about it.
Promoting Susanville is also in California’s interests. During COVID, most knowledge workers went home, and many don’t plan to return to office life. Instead, they’re moving en masse to areas with affordable housing, usually outside California. The impact to California of having large numbers of well-paid workers leave should not be underestimated. Susanville is uniquely situated to help address this issue by offering a lower cost of living, plenty of space, outdoor recreation, and thanks in part to the CCC and High Desert State Prison multiple high-speed fiber optic networks already present and expanding in the area. Convincing these workers to come to Susanville will keep much needed tax revenue inside California while also helping Susanville thrive.
Long term, California should seek to bring major employers to Susanville to replace the jobs lost from closing CCC. Perhaps the most obvious option is to place a Cal Poly or University of California school here. As it stands, both Cal Poly and the UCs are overcrowded and in need of additional space. Meanwhile, many existing campuses cannot be expanded without exorbitant expense. In desperation, they’re trying all sorts of crazy solutions to admit more students than they have room for. This is unfair to both the students and overburdened faculty and staff. Ultimately, this will harm the education of California’s children, which they need to compete in the increasingly knowledge-based world. Further, even if the colleges could expand, there’s no housing available for those students. All of these areas have severe housing shortages and no viable way to increase the supply.
Meanwhile, Susanville has undeveloped land within walking distance of an adorable downtown that could once again be alive with shops and restaurants. We also have the basis for the high-speed telecommunications infrastructure a college needs. Susanville’s highschoolers already benefit from LCC, how much more so from the presence of a major research institution?
Geography provides additional reasons California should put a Cal Poly or UC in Susanville. A quick look at a map of the UC system shows there are no UC’s and only a couple Cal States north of Davis.
That’s nearly ⅓ of California without a UC. Meanwhile, Susanville’s proximity to Reno provides a unique environment as it’s close enough to offer access to the “big city” amenities but small and quiet enough to have a “college town” feel. A school in Susanville would also have an obvious pull on out-of-state students from Nevada and Oregon, bringing their badly needed tuition dollars.
While people will be understandably concerned that such investments would radically alter Susanville, the city is changing whether we like it or not. We must move forward if we are to preserve this hidden gem. We may lose the battle for CCC, but we can win something more important, long term economic stability and a brighter future for California’s children.