One of the benefits of covering a three-county region is that our newspaper gets to view economic and business issues from three separate vantage points.
One of the most divergent perspectives is in the area of economic development. While economic development issues hardly register on the radar for Santa Barbara County supervisors, they are moving to center stage in Ventura County. And in San Luis Obispo County, they have been high on the Board of Supervisors agenda for quite some time.
Dating back to 1999, economic development has been part of the county’s general plan and just a few weeks ago the latest update was approved by the supervisors. Much of the input for the plan came via work by the San Luis Obispo Economic Vitality Corp., a public-private partnership that has emerged as an important bridge between government and the business community.
The recently approved plan defines “clusters of opportunity” that really try to identify areas where San Luis Obispo County can provide opportunity to young and emerging business leaders without sacrificing the environment and quality of life. Among the clusters are:
• Building, construction and design. Here, the emphasis is placed on meeting the social and housing needs created by head of household jobs.
• Green energy. SLO County is far ahead in embracing the idea of renewables at the residential, commercial and utility scale.
• Health care. The county is committed to helping its current citizens “age in place” without having to go outside the region for health care.
• Innovation and knowledge. The county recognized the tremendous potential of its entrepreneurs, particularly in technology and knowledge fields.
• Specialized manufacturing. Again, there is a recognition that good jobs in skilled fields are more appropriate for SLO than unskilled jobs that require lots of low-cost housing.
• “Uniquely SLO.” The county has huge advantages in tourism, cultural tourism and agri-tourism that come into play.
We are using a bit of editorial license in describing these clusters, but the idea is to use the latest economic element update to San Luis Obispo’s general plan to stimulate conversation about the economic future of our entire region. Let the discussions begin.