February 23, 2024
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Our View: Rebuilding the region’s manufacturing base


After a recent Zoom session on manufacturing hosted by the Economic Development Collaborative, the Ventura County Workforce Investment Board and others, it is clear that things are stirring in this important sector of the economy.

For much of the 21st century, the tri-county region ignored manufacturing as it went into a decline. That’s partly because, in Ventura County at least, the stunning growth of Amgen in the 1990s skewed employment data in the nondurables manufacturing area, where its burgeoning biotech production was recorded.

But job cuts at Amgen and the slow loss of traditional manufacturing jobs have refocused the attention of Ventura County leadership. Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties ought to join the effort to create a region-wide Industry Council to train a new generation for smart manufacturing.

The days when speaker makers and consumer goods manufacturers dotted the region and paid decent but not great wages are largely gone.

But manufacturing has evolved into a highly skilled field, where employement is lower but pay is good, and where health care, biotech, agribusiness and other fields share the same advanced skill sets.

In Ventura County, the community college district has made notable strides in creating for-credit programs and certificate programs — items the Business Times has been advocating for in recent years. These could now be replicated region wide.

The Ventura County Community College District’s efforts have been aided by a group led by Peter Zierhut at Haas Automation, a company that takes this issue very seriously.

Beyond Ventura County, the Goleta Valley and the Santa Maria-San Luis Obispo corridor also have their share of advanced manufacturers, ranging from Wyatt Technology in Goleta to Hardy Diagnostics in Santa Maria to Trust Automation in San Luis Obispo. Aerospace and defense remain huge opportunities, where Naval Base Ventura County, defense contractors in the Goleta area and Vandenberg Space Force Base offer substantial long-term advantages in terms of an existing workforce and a culture of innovation.

Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden have spent considerable political capital pushing for the onshoring of manufacturing capacity, and there should be ample opportunity for the region to benefit from this trend. It takes work and customized solutions, and companies must be willing to do their part in terms of communication and job opportunities.

But the Central Coast could embrace advanced manufacturing as part of its future — as a high-cost area, this is one of the few industries where pay levels are enough to give our workers a fighting chance.


We’ll take just a few moments to send good wishes to Business Times Hall of Fame member Peter Jordano on the 107th anniversary of Jordano’s, the company his family founded with a single store in downtown Santa Barbara in 1915.

It is remarkable that Jordano’s is still in its second generation of family ownership, with a third generation capably waiting in the wings. Surviving a single business cycle is a remarkable achievement, but Jordano’s ability to adapt and grow is noteworthy.

It left retail behind decades ago as its primary revenue source, and is now a wholesale distributor of food and beverages to countless restaurants, bars and stores throughout the region. Congratulations.