April 3, 2024
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Central Coast industries projected to add nearly 10,000 jobs


REACH CEO Melissa James at the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo HotHouse in San Luis Obispo. (File Photo)

Four key industries provide more than 67,000 jobs in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, contribute about $12 billion in economic impact, and are projected to add over 9,000 more positions by 2027. 

Those are some of the key findings in a new set of reports examining the four sectors: technology, aerospace/precision manufacturing, clean technology/renewable energy, and agriculture/agriculture technology.

The studies, released Feb. 16, were commissioned by Reach, a Central Coast economic development group, to support the region’s growth of those industries.

Julie Pruniski, Reach’s vice president of strategic initiatives, told the Business Times on Feb. 20 that the reports underscore the potential of those sectors to fuel the creation of good-paying jobs in the area. 

“The majority of jobs in these innovation industries with the exception of agriculture pay well above the regional median wage, and many don’t require a four-year degree, providing accessible onramps into promising careers,” she said in an email.

Pruniski said the research also “illuminates a fresh view on precision manufacturing, often narrowly considered in the context of aerospace and transportation, as a much broader regional strength that extends to optics, lasers, nanotechnology, semiconductors, and advanced materials engineering.”

That insight has “sparked additional analysis and collaboration to build on the ample intellectual resources and talent pipeline to expand this globally important field here on the Central Coast,” she said.

The reports note that the various industries face a common challenge of a regional outmigration of workers that will require targeted talent development and attraction efforts to offset.

The technology report found that the sector contributes $3.29 billion in economic impact, provides 13,000 jobs, and is projected to add over 1,300 more by 2027.

“The region is a growing tech hub with a mix of globally recognized companies and locally grown innovators and the entrepreneurial assets to support further expansion,” the report says.

The industry has added about 5,000 jobs over the last two decades, according to the report.

Though the majority of the growth has been in Santa Barbara County, the number of tech jobs in San Luis Obispo County has doubled in that time, the report says.

The region’s strengths extend beyond traditional technology to include engineering, testing, and research and development, according to the report.

There is a robust regional talent pipeline, and annual wages average $151,861, the report notes.

The aerospace/precision manufacturing sector contributes $2.31 billion in economic impact to the region, provides 9,800 jobs and is projected to add over 900 more by 2027, according to that industry’s report.

“A pioneer in space launch, infrared, and sensing technologies, the region is well positioned to capture investment in these fast-growing global industries,” that report says. 

The region’s strengths in manufacturing navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments represent a unique advantage, according to the report.

“The majority of space and aerospace jobs are based in Santa Barbara County, though SLO County has seen dramatic growth that is projected to continue,” the report says.

Precision manufacturing jobs are among the highest paying in the region, averaging annual wages of $146,490, according to the report.

The agriculture/agtech sector contributes $4.4 billion in economic impact, provides 35,000 jobs, and is projected to add over 6,600 more by 2027, according to that industry’s report.

The sector is projected to grow 10% by 2027, far outpacing state and national projections of 1% and 5%. 

The report says the industry plays an essential role in the regional economy, accounting for nearly 1 out of every 10 jobs. 

“Talent development is vital, considering the skills and technology demands of the industry’s continued modernization, as is addressing sustainability challenges,” the report notes.

The clean tech/renewable energy sector contributes $2.32 billion in economic impact, provides 9,300 jobs, and is projected to add nearly 700 more by 2027, according to that industry’s report.

“As a long-standing energy hub for the state, the Central Coast’s power generation and transmission capabilities serve as a vital economic driver for the region,” the report says.

The regional industry has added 3,700 jobs over the last two decades, with growth rates outpacing the state and U.S., the study found.

Annual wages average $113,132, and many of the most in-demand jobs have low barriers to entry.

“Regional strengths and opportunities extend beyond energy production to water conservation, sustainable building practices, and environmental consulting,” the report says.

Reach President and CEO Melissa James said in a press release that the various industries are a growing part of the regional economy and primed for further expansion.

“These four reports provide analysis and insights to help the region’s companies, education and workforce providers, and policymakers work collectively to reach the brass ring of thousands of new good jobs on the Central Coast,” she said.

Consultant Tip Strategies developed the reports, with data and analysis by Lightcast and guidance from four regional industry councils.

The reports were funded by a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant with local matching from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, and Bank of America.

email: mharris@pacbiztimes.com