The 10 Pt Plan for Our County’s Economic Development

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The County is taking public comment on the final draft of its landmark Economic Vitality Strategy (EVS). Like most government documents, it is deep on study, thick with recommendations, and light on clear next steps. There are 131 strategic recommendations in the EVS – demonstrating that the County’s Economic Coordinator, Barbara Mason, did a great job of incorporating everybody’s feedback. Unfortunately it reads like a laundry list of half measures. Full of “support this” and “facilitate that”s that are sure to get ground to oblivion under the slow turning wheel of government.

But there is momentum to be captured here if we can whittle the plan down to say, 10 points, each with a very clear call to action. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you, “The 10 Pt Plan for Our County’s Economic Development.” Note, I constructed this list of 10 after reading local Venture Philantrapist Bud Colligan’s 11 pages of feedback (I highly recommend his  letter if you’re ready to take the next step to understanding Santa Cruz’s opportunities) which is itself a distillation of the County document. This is not an original list, rather, it is an effort to synthesize what people have already been saying.

  1. Increase Zoning Density and Zoning Types. Housing is too expensive in the County, we need more. Let’s build smart, sustainable cities and create housing options for residents near jobs, seniors, and the currently un-housed.
  2.  Increase Bandwidth. It’s how we think these days. Install fiber along the Rail Trail and Soquel Blvd. as soon as possible.
  3. Develop Parking and Public Transportation Projects to Facilitate Tourism. As far as our local economy is concerned, tourism is and will always be a huge piece. Lets continue to share the love that is Santa Cruz, but let’s do it in a way that reduces traffic congestion and allows people spend more time outside of their cars in the fresh air. (Note – most transportation related infrastructure is the purview of the SCCRTC and doesn’t fall into the economic development strategy directly).
  4. Jointly Promote Monterey Bay with Neighboring Counties. Identify three opportunities to promote the Monterey Bay Region. Execute the first opportunity no later than June, 2015.
  5. Permit Cottage Industries. This includes allowing Bed and Breakfasts and shops on agricultural plots.
  6. Reduce the Shortfall of Agricultural Workers. 15% of all crops wither on the vine because of a shortage of labor to harvest it. There is hundreds of millions of dollars for the county to recapture. Possible solutions include education, work programs and more temporary housing.
  7. Develop 3 New Policies to Support High-wage Employment. We want residents to have good jobs. That means supporting small-to-mid size businesses (1 – 500 people).
  8. Sponsor Tech Events. This includes ongoing eco-system efforts such as New Tech Meet-up, Tech Raising etc. and possibly new ones (Santa Cruz Gaming Conference, anyone?)
  9. Support the Human Genome Project in Raising $50M. It’s only, like, the most important scientific research of our time. And it’s right here in our city. Let’s get these guys some support!
  10. Streamline Working with the County. Establish an “Over the Counter” business permit system and provide training to County and City staff to be “intra-preneurs” and eliminate repetitive tasks.

If you find yourself trying to recite this list at a cocktail party (and please do, the more awareness the better) here’s an easy way to remember it. 3 of the strategies are related to infrastructure, 3 are related to ag and tourism, 3 are related to tech and high-wage jobs, and 1 is related to an entrepreneurial spirit at the County.

Whatever you think, let us know on Civinomics. Create a new initiative and vote for others you like in Santa Cruz County. The future is ours, if we stay focused on what’s important.

4 Comments

  1. Ted Cocheu says:

    Thanks Manu–the EVS is indeed dense with recommendations and prioritizing is the obvious next step. Great summary!

  2. Jean Brocklebank says:

    Thanks, Manu, for including Bud Colligan’s excellently written comments to the Board of Supervisors. I had already read (and partially digested) the Draft EVS and it left me scratching my head. While Colligan’s “vision” will be difficult to implement (because service workers needed to service all the conference centers, hotels, small business buildings will never be able to afford to live here and will be driving to work instead of the current workers who drive in the opposite direction), I still like his vision. One caveat: we must protect and preserve the natural world that is left here in the County. Paying lip service to “the environment” is not good enough. Wetlands, waterways, greenbelts, and other natural areas are not underutilized or undeveloped. They are utilized by non-human species.

    As to your first point, Manu, there is no way to build enough housing in this County to make housing affordable. As soon as the world sees Santa Cruz (Colligan’s brand at work), investors will buy up the housing created, to be used as either second homes for the already rich or rental housing in which case the prices will still be unaffordable. We can’t tell them not to do that. And they will. I take that back: we could build enough housing but we will have to sacrifice the environment to do it. Who wants to start?

  3. Chris Nunez says:

    I’m seeing some overlooked areas that I’m still pondering. Need to think about the areas, but it’s not possible to look at a fruitful future if some of the problematics of the past have not been dealt with, and I see nothing that specifically addresses community centers and recreation facilities other than as bullet points. Still pondering these ‘gaps’.

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