J Guevara on the Economic Vitality Strategy

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The City of Santa Cruz’s Economic Development Manager J Guevara works closely with Santa Cruz businesses in regards to economic development and redevelopment. He has been apart of a variety of economic development projects including the Motel Improvement Program, Facade Improvement Program, and the Santa Cruz Trolley. This week I sat down with Mr. Guevara to talk about Santa Cruz County’s recently released Economic Vitality Strategy (EVS). The EVS is Santa Cruz County’s most recent list of tangible goals for the business community and how the County will help with the next few decades of economic development.

What is your overall impression of the EVS?

The simple fact that the county published the EVS is a huge step in the right direction. Economic development is best achieved when working together, especially in regards to the relationship between a city and county. The county not having an office of economic development makes the cities’ offices of economic development that much more important. Overall it’s a great starting document to encourage collaboration.

 What would a successful implementation of the EVS look like to you?

Strong public and private sector consensus and commitment to grow high growth tech and innovation clusters all while working with UCSC and building a sustainable 21st century economy. There are a lot of experienced entrepreneurs and people just finding out what to do and its important to help all types of businesses.

If you had to brand Santa Cruz in one sentence what would it be?

Santa Cruz is an innovative place to live, work, and play. Fundamentally, every Santa Cruzan is an innovator because we all find ways to live and work in Santa Cruz with its high cost of living. The innovation economy includes not only tech and creative industries, but also includes other sectors in Santa Cruz because most of us craft our careers and work lives in inventive ways because we love to live in this amazing place. A robust economy relies upon such inventiveness and allows people to thrive by maximizing economic opportunities, building on the culture of innovation unique to Santa Cruz.

If you had to limit the EVS to just a couple of strategies, what would they be?

I would like to see a concentration on tech and innovation. However these cannot be separated from infrastructure like broadband development, and affordable housing. It is very possible to balance maintaining industry and investing in new high growth with a sustainable economy.

It is imperative to Santa Cruz’s long term economic development to keep talent in the town. A welcoming and affordable community could reverse this brain-drain and help expand Santa Cruz’s economy. A strong business ecosystem and a culture of inclusion go far to attract and retain talent, adding to the natural beauty and healthy lifestyles that draw so many to Santa Cruz.

What’s your take on the EVS? Sound off in the comments and be sure to vote on the EVS strategies on Civinomics.

4 Comments

  1. Chris Nunez says:

    Quick review of the EVS shows that 1) you can only access this ‘online’ so if you’re not able to access a computer and it’s not part of your life yet then your voice isn’t heard — so much for ‘community input’. This says something about who those enterpreneuers will be, and who won’t be. You might want to look at the Sunday Chronicle and see who’s gentrifying Mill Valley, as well as what we’ve seen of San Francisco’s effort to re-brand itself as Silicon Valley.

    As for ‘affordable housing’ that’s an empty and meaningless phrase that’s been used over and over for decades by developers who don’t quite deliver.

    What I don’t see is any kind of consideration of the reality that throughout California we are being asked to create communities with infrastructure for the reentry of people who have been incarcerated and are now being sent back to their counties. While some of them will do the remainder of their time in the county jails, others will be out and in need of 1) job training; 2) group homes to re-establish themselves into civilian life; 3) rehabilitation services for alcohol or other substance abuse problems.

    These are not services that are fully paid for by the savings from emptying our prisons, but there is a need there. To assume that all new jobs will be high tech shows that there is a disconnect with the reality of our communities. There must be a mix of job training and opportunities that include blue-collar jobs, service jobs, and not just high-tech that will serve only UCSC grads. This smacks as discriminatory and self-serving and could create a backlash like the one that’s been brewing in San Francisco. If you haven’t seen how long-time residents, and service workers who actually lived in San Francisco have been displaced by high-tech wannabe enterpreneuers than you’re not paying attention. The request for funds to support this dream ignores that it is the taxpayer, many of whom are not UCSC grads, and many of whom are blue-collar and service workers is myopic.

    Where is the opportunity for anyone but the UCSC grads? Where are the real opportunities being ignored? There are real needs, and the ‘visionaries’ of this EVS plan seem only to be seeing their own futures and not the whole of Santa Cruz County. Time to get those feet back on the ground and think as a real community and not just an exclusive little group of cohorts.

    And it’s a relief that the ‘feedback’ opportunity has been extended through August. But where other than online can people provide feedback and engage in a real face-to-face discussion and some brainstorming?

  2. Chris Nunez says:

    Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention, we will also have veterans returning from the wars in the Middle East who will have some important skills, but will those skills be needed in the EVS vision? And we have vets who’ve returned and some have been maimed by that war and in need of rehabilitation and services that are not as readily available as could be. Maybe folks have seen some of those vets on the street looking an awful lot like ‘homeless’ folks. And have you seen the vets whose limbs are amputated? They have needs too like jobs, rehabilitation, housing and community. I don’t see any of that in this EVS plan.

    Those of us who have benefited from college educations should not step in front of the line when there are all these other fellow citizen who have more pressing needs.

    But perhaps there is mutual opportunity in helping one another, maybe?

  3. Jean Brocklebank says:

    Chris says “Time to get those feet back on the ground and think as a real community and not just an exclusive little group of cohorts.” I wholeheartedly agree. We need craftspeople who can build things and repair things in our community as much as we need high tech innovation. Chris also debunks the so-called “affordable housing” nonsense. Except for people who make six figure salaries, no one can really afford housing in this County. A single-walled cabin in Lompico doesn’t count. Live Oak does have a good stock of mobile and manufactured home parks but even these are being bought in many cases as second homes for non-full time residents.

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