The County Economic Vitality Strategy and You

 

Santa Cruz Bikes represents a unique “lifestyle” industry sector, a key to our region’s future growth.

The County of Santa Cruz has released its draft Economic Vitality Strategy (EVS) for public comment. The due date for comments is July 7th. Here’s why you should care:

This plan will affect your business and your job. Whether you work for a large company or a small company, in health, agriculture, education or technology, the Economic Vitality Strategy attempts to create success for all businesses in the County. If there are pain point or things that are holding your business back, the EVS is an opportunity to see them addressed. The EVS also addresses potential improvements to public infrastructure, such as our transportation system, and the future expansion of broadband internet access.

The County Board of Supervisors doesn’t consider economic policy everyday. Most of their time is consumed by detail oriented tasks, making this a rare opportunity to consider more significant action on broader economic trends. The last major economic plan considered, entitled “County of Santa Cruz Economic Development Action Plan”, was released 20 years ago and contains many of the same recommendations found in this most recent EVS.

The plan has huge implications for housing and our built environment across the county. It’s an opportunity for zoning and permitting to be re-considered. Whether you believe in cities and greater urban density or slowing growth and preserving open space, this is an important moment for you to speak up. Affordable housing is a paramount consideration in this draft plan, but public input is needed to fill in the gaps in terms of implementation.

So, just what is the EVS? Practically speaking, it’s a bunch of policy recommendations that are the result of charrettes (small meetings) with business owners and organizations across the County. The document attempts to distill some of the key suggestions brought up during those meetings and has divided them into 7 categories as follows:

 

  • Create Shared Vision and Organize for Action
  • Support Sustainable Development and Availability of Housing
  • Strengthen Key Economic Sectors — Agriculture, Health, Education and Leisure & Hospitality
  • Enhance Opportunities for Emerging Sectors of Technology and The Arts, and Support Small Business
  • Expand Public Sector Capacity & Infrastructure
  • Revitalize and Strengthen Town Centers and Commercial Areas
  • Promote Santa Cruz County to Local, Regional, State, National & Global Market

Between these categories there are 110 distinct “strategies.” For example, strategy 3.1:

Consider Amendments to County Code to Support Agricultural-Related Enterprises

The only catch is that the County just has one full time staff member dedicated to implementing this, and instead relies on outside stakeholder groups (like the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council) for input and assistance . Barbara Mason, who is the County’s Economic Development Coordinator, is the plan’s primary author and overseer. And while the plan recommends appointing a point person in each County department to ensure the EVS goals are met, 110 strategies is a sizable list any way you cut it.

This is where you come in. What is truly important and what can be left out? Where would you like to see the County make real commitments of money and time?  What policies should be enacted and what existing laws should be changed?

In an effort to make the process more open, we’ve posted the whole plan on Civinomics so that you can vote and comment on each strategy. Check it out, vote and add comments here.

You can also submit your general comments by email to PLN001@santacruzcounty.org.

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