While the South Coast is reveling in its waterfront makeover, tri-county tourism is getting stronger and economists are heralding a boom in craft spirits, the manufacturing core of the region is looking more and more hollowed-out.
Large sections of Simi Valley and west Ventura County and North Santa Barbara County are losing head-of-household jobs. San Luis Obispo County is facing a big shift as Diablo Canyon and its 1,600 skilled jobs get ready to sunset.
Meanwhile, the defiant tone of California politicians in response to the election of Donald Trump may set the stage for a reaction in the form of more regulation — just what the state’s manufacturing sector doesn’t need.
Dorothy Rothrock, recently named head of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, thinks it may be wise to call a time out before rushing headlong into new, anti-competitive measures. The longtime lobbyist told an audience in Solvang she thinks the legislature should adopt a “do no harm” rule when it comes to a sector that’s been a traditional source of head-of-household jobs.
Speaking at the annual Santa Barbara Technology & Industry Awards dinner, she described in stark terms the dire shortfall in California’s manufacturing since 2001.
The state ranks dead last in manufacturing dollars invested per million people and accounted for just 1.8 percent of new U.S. manufacturing investment since the end of 2000. That compares to a respectable 5.6 percent average of U.S. manufacturing dollars for the 1980s and 1990s.
California policies have tended to downplay the state’s natural advantages in logistics and location, the skills of its workforce and its innovative spirit. Instead, it’s tax policy, labor rules, rising utility costs and sky-high housing prices that have put California at a deep disadvantage.
Harkening back to the 1990s, Greater Los Angeles benefited from the rise of a single large manufacturer, Thousand Oaks-based Amgen, which added more than 5,000 jobs when it built its Newbury Park campus for the processing of biologics. That sort of investment seems unimaginable today and other states are becoming much more competitive in wooing new advanced manufacturing facilities. One encouraging sign does lie in the maker spaces and small-batch shops cropping across the state. Most of the state’s manufacturers, including Amgen, started out as small businesses.
“Small businesses that are growing are going to build our economy,” she said.
Rothrock said that if the state legislature comes to its senses and stops squandering its natural advantages, the state could succeed.
“We can choose manufacturing,” she said, “but we need to speak up.” And legislators need to do no harm.
Remembering the leaders we lost
As 2016 draws to a close we’d like to take a minute to recognize four people who made a big difference in our lives and who, unfortunately, are not with us as we head into 2017.
• Lynn Jacobs, a relentless advocate for low income and workforce housing in Ventura County, was able to bring business, labor and community advocates together.
• Greg Morris, owner of Morris & Garritano Insurance agency, brought tremendous talent and a love of his community to San Luis Obispo County.
• Jack Nadel, an entrepreneur, author, storyteller and philanthropist, brought wisdom and connection to many Santa Barbara area nonprofits, notably Sansum Clinic.
• William “Tom” Thomas, former CEO and chairman of the parent of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, led his organization with class and character.
They had a big impact and will be missed.