The Central Coast’s economic future is tied to its ability to capitalize on its burgeoning wine and agriculture, smart manufacturing, high technology and tourism industries.
That was the view from two separate economic events in San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria on Nov. 8.
In San Luis Obispo, forecasters from Beacon Economics weighed the growth prospects and challenges for the SLO County economy as a round table of local business leaders discussed issues facing their companies.
“San Luis Obispo County is leading the Central Coast out of the economic downturn,” said Brad Kemp, Beacon’s director of regional research. The city of San Luis Obispo has gained an estimated 2.9 percent of its peak employment back after losing 9.9 percent, he said.
Even so, job gains remain sluggish. SLO County can expect to see unemployment drop by 0.5 percent over the next year, with total nonfarm employment climbing 2.5 percent, Kemp said. SLO county has been seeing positive growth in its taxable sales since the third quarter of 2009. Sales in the city of San Luis Obispo are up 8.9 percent year-over-year, with other cities, including Pismo Beach, up 16 percent year-over-year, seeing even stronger growth.
In Santa Maria, business leaders gathered to lay the basic framework for a regional economic development plan that would capitalize on potential high-growth sectors in the region such as precision farming, health care, energy and space-related technologies.
The area has lost some 2,500 jobs over the past three years, according to the keynote speaker. Those losses are largely due to continued fallout from the national recession, but still present the region with an opportunity to position itself competitively, said Delore Zimmerman, co-founder and CEO of Praxis Strategy Group.
•For full coverage of the economic forecasts in San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria, see the Nov. 11-17 print edition of the Business Times.