While Santa Barbara County officials have shown limited interest in an economic development effort to match their counterparts in Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, support programs for businesses in the region are moving ahead.
One such program is the countywide Small Business Development Center, or SBDC, located at Santa Barbara City College’s Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship. It is one of a network of SBDC programs that serve the Los Angeles region, which includes Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
During its first year of operation under the Scheinfeld umbrella, the center helped more than 100 businesses and provided training to 325 current and would-be entrepreneurs. It has helped create a total of 82 new jobs and about $7 million in new capital. Its services are free of charge.
These are strong results for an operation in its first year and the numbers are a testament to the efforts of Melissa Moreno, who runs both the SBDC and the Scheinfeld Center. But the truth behind Santa Barbara’s SBDC is that it’s being subsidized by a larger and more mature effort in Ventura County, run by EDC-VC, a large public-private partnership that provides loans and other support services throughout Ventura County.
Today, EDC-VC ponies matching funds required to keep the Santa Barbara effort going — but soon it will be up to Santa Barbara SBDC to raise its own money to sustain itself.
We think this program is worthy of support and we encourage our local government, financial institutions and other stakeholders to support it. We have observed that a number of federal support programs, particularly in areas such as energy efficiency and technology advancement, require that a community have an operational SBDC network.
Much is unique about Santa Barbara County. It has an effective Economic Development Commission in Santa Maria. A group in Santa Barbara has launched a startup weekend, and a small group led by Michael Holliday has kept South Coast economic vitality effort moving forward.
Keeping Santa Barbara County in the SBDC game should be a cornerstone of any broader economic development strategy.