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Op/ed: Looking at the opportunities and challenges for Ventura County’s energy sector


By Hank Lacayo on November 11, 2013

Kudos to the Ventura County Economic Development Association for its excellent report and program, “Energy Balance: Future Opportunities and Challenges” presented on Oct. 25 at the Ventura County Schools Conference Center.

Every time VCEDA compiles the data and analyzes the economic trends for our county, we are inspired to rise to the challenge of making Ventura a better place to live and work. This year’s report is bold and unvarnished. It is forthright in its acknowledgement of our national policy challenges, especially as they relate to the creation and sustaining of local business opportunities. We can enhance our ability to take immediate action on the VECEDA report when we highlight the human capital equation. Our unique work force can energize business, invest in the local economy and sustain healthy communities.

Our future energy options are developed in four strategic steps. First and foremost is our ability to harness the tools and technologies for energy production. The ‘can do’ spirit and experience of our local business community and our ability to safely process our natural resources gives Ventura County a tremendous jump start in creating a viable energy balance. Our second step is an earnest investment in our infrastructure to undergird our routes of transmission, both concrete and electronic, to ensure cost efficient and consistent energy distribution in all of its various forms.

While we like to highlight our county-wide resources and wherewithal, we cannot reach our goals without engaging, some would say leading, the public policy changes that are necessary to diversify our energy balance. This third step of rigorous review and original thinking can pioneer new policy alternatives that open the doors for balanced energy and business opportunities. VCEDA’s inclusion of local, state and federal representatives and agencies helps us to maintain a focus on creating strong public policy that promotes innovation.

The fourth vital step in our strategy for attaining balanced energy is our planned investment in the creation and maintenance of our local workforce. Acknowledgement and discussion of the development of our counties human capital would have been a great addition to the most recent VECDA summit.

When we utilize the human capital equation we are able to calculate local impact in three dimensional terms; the impact on the local workforce, the benefits of a revitalized consumer base and the impact on innovation that is derived from an investment in capacity building and education.

This can include thinking through our investment in public education that highlights math and science; innovation scholarships and competitions for creating new technologies; and internships that provide reality-based experiences from the perspective of production and policy development.

Can we assume that we currently have a ready workforce that is prepared to engage in new energy related technologies? Not so. Comments from the VCEDA keynote speakers acknowledged the changing demographics of our county. These trends include generational changes or the graying of the community; educational challenges, including the lack of math and science curricula that are integral to emerging technologies; and the need to refresh our economic vitality to stimulate our consumer base.

Some comments during the panel discussions suggested the ease of securing workers who are able to travel from outside the county to meet our local workforce needs such as workers from Bakersfield or the Gulf Coast states. Many communities with innovative projects have learned that an imported workforce packs up their pay checks when they leave town rather than investing in the local economy.

Let us take a second look at the factors that are essential to creating a balance of energy in Ventura County. Investment in innovation, production and distribution of balanced energy resources are greatly enhanced when we use them locally and grow our own strong and capable workforce. This approach positions Ventura County as a model for fully utilizing balanced energy strategies with intelligent use of our human and geologic resources.

• Business Hall of Fame inductee Hank Lacayo is an advisor to The Henry L. “Hank” Lacayo Institute for Workforce & Community Studies at CSU Channel Islands.