September 23, 2022
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Our View: Signs of progress in efforts to improve Ventura County’s business climate

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Economic development has become a hot topic in Ventura County thanks to a couple of recent reports that spotlight a deep crisis in housing affordability and a dearth of head-of-household jobs.

The issue has spilled over into Ventura County politics, where county supervisor candidate and former Assemblymember Jeff Gorell has been talking about creating a “Gold Team Ventura County” to support area businesses and also pitch the county to potential new employers.

The “Gold Team” concept is one Gorell worked on with then-Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom back in the Jerry Brown era. When we talked to Gorell over the phone recently, he mentioned the idea of starting out by sitting down with major employers to understand their needs.

Meanwhile, Ventura County leaders have been discussing how to reinvigorate the economic vitality effort that led to the creation of an economic element for the county’s general plan. One of the signature projects of former CEO Mike Powers, that effort is ready for a restart now that Sevet Johnson has been appointed to replace him.

Finally, there are ongoing discussions about the future of VCEDA, the Ventura County Economic Development Association, which paused its annual conference and other live activities during the pandemic.

Pacific Coast Business Times has been an active participant in the county’s economic program and discussions about VCEDA. We don’t endorse political candidates, but we agree with former VCEDA CEO Bill Burrato that something like a Gold Team effort could be part of a “proactive effort” to foster a stronger economy.

Despite the negative headlines, Ventura County’s economy has proven to be quite resilient. The county government is in solid fiscal shape, and the county business community has excellent resources available through the Economic Development Collaborative, its Small Business Development Center and an industry council to support startups and established enterprises. EDC has made noteworthy progress in creating partnerships with Naval Base Ventura County and Women’s Economic Ventures is active in its support for small and emerging companies.

Ventura County does have a variant of the Santa Barbara disease, where decades of growth limits have squeezed the middle class and made home ownership very difficult for a new generation.

This could be a propitious moment for a conversation to advance without the stigma that’s been attached to economic development as a concept. Bringing businesses to the table isn’t easy, but it will be worth the effort. Especially if there is an easy-to-communicate countywide architecture for economic development.

UNEXPECTED TWIST IN DIVE BOAT CASE

In the ongoing saga of one of the worst maritime disasters in recent memory, a Los Angeles federal judge has tossed the indictment of the captain of the dive boat Conception.

In case you have forgotten, the Conception caught fire and sank off the coast of Santa Barbara three years ago, taking 34 lives. As a result, there has been a significant rewriting of rules for commercial boat safety in U.S. waters. But families of the victims have been stymied repeatedly in efforts to get accountability or closure.

The criminal indictment was thrown out because the charging documents alleged “negligence” and not “gross negligence,” as required by statute. We appreciate the court’s attention to detail but we, like many others, expect these charges to be refiled and the case to proceed.