When it comes to success in adapting to the new normal for the Central Coast economy, there are a few cities that stand out.
One of them is Paso Robles. The economic anchor for North San Luis Obispo County has seen its demographics change from that of a traditional agricultural town to that of a wine and tourism industry hub. It has also attracted a growing number of technology and manufacturing companies that often pick the city as a base because that’s where the executives want to settle down and enjoy the wine-country way of life.
But Paso Robles also became highly dependent on housing and retail sales taxes and it faced a precipitous decline in revenue when the Great Recession hit.
Fortunately, things are starting to come around. A recent report from City Manager Jim App provides some key details.
During the past four years, the city faced million-dollar shortfalls in its roughly $23 million annual budget, and heavy cost cuts were the order of the day. Following a disciplined approach to reserves, it did tap into $2.2 million of some $12 million in rainy day money to make up for losses.
But the cornerstone for the city was retaining its AA credit rating, something it accomplished using rigorous fiscal controls. The year ended in June 2012 tells a slightly happier story. Revenue is up slightly, to $24.5 million, and $1.1 million will be repaid into the reserve account.
Thanks to a rebound in tourism, Paso Robles heads into the upswing in the economic cycle with hundreds more hotel rooms and a recovering housing market. We’ve also heard from businesses expanding in the city that Paso Robles is increasingly becoming known for being a business-friendly town with an easy-to-navigate licensing and planning environment.
As we reported earlier this year, companies ranging from Applied Technologies Associates, a Central Coast outpost of Houston-based Scientific Drilling International, to Speciality Silicon are building big new facilities in the city in preparation for a hiring spree. The mini manufacturing boom, coupled with Paso’s ever-flourishing wine scene, is a very strong combination for the city.
“Let the good times roll” is not yet the mantra for North San Luis Obispo County. But a strengthening Central Coast economy will keep Paso Robles in relatively strong fiscal shape for years to come.