February 5, 2023
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Editorial: Monterey County sets example for eco-devo


Monterey County has joined an economic vitality push that, with one notable exception, seem to have taken hold on California’s Central Coast.

In a major restructuring, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors has created a new position called Director of Economic Development. It is  a job that involves running a department of 14 full-time staff members, handling a $26 million budget and overseeing the Workforce Investment Board, and a housing and community development program. The county just announced a search to fill the position.
Monterey County’s move comes as San Luis Obispo County has added an economic strategy to its overall plan for the future.

The region also continues to invest in the San Luis Obispo Economic Vitality Corp., a public-private venture that has given local governments and business owners an opportunity to work together on key issues affecting the economy, including construction of two utility scale solar farms in a remote area of the county.  Under Mike Manchak, SLO-EVC has come to be seen as an honest broker for business and government cooperation.

Meanwhile in Ventura County, CEO Mike Powers, with the backing of his Board of Supervisors, has launched a county-wide economic strategy. Still in its early stages, it will, for the first time, identify areas where local business can be strengthened and where county government processes can be streamlined to reduce the cost of doing business.

Which brings us to Santa Barbara County. Still stuck in the growth vs. no-growth battles of the past, its Board of Supervisors is wringing its hands over falling revenue and high unemployment rates in the Santa Maria Valley and Lompoc, while doing very little to jumpstart a vitality push. Santa Barbara County’s Small Business Development Center remains open due to the largesse of Ventura County’s Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County, which continues to administer and underwrite its programs.

Several grassroots efforts, including a recent push by several chambers of commerce, have come to nothing, while an The city of Santa Maria and its Economic Development Association are looking for stronger countywide or South Coast partners.

South Santa Barbara County can  rest on its tourism dollars and UC Santa Barbara spinoffs. Or it can proceed boldly and fill what one expert calls the  “donut hole” of economic vitality efforts on the Central Coast. In this case, we think bold would be beautiful.