Viewpoint

What’s happening with our local economy?

December 2, 2012 

With the future of our nation’s economy discussed at nearly every office and dinner table, word is spreading about a local project that’s laying the groundwork to help local companies thrive and create new jobs.

As the only countywide nonprofit economic development organization, the Economic Vitality Corporation is at the forefront of fostering job creation and providing assistance to local businesses. In an effort to help our local economy, the EVC, the business community and the county of San Luis Obispo are collaborating to implement an Economic Strategy.

As our region struggles with a lack of head-of-household jobs, the EVC and its partners are encouraging policies and programs that foster a healthy business community to create jobs and build a larger tax base (not more or new taxes).

San Luis Obispo County is home to many amazing businesses that help fund public safety, schools, parks and recreation and infrastructure. We believe that such growing needs should be met without always looking to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., for solutions and resources.

The Economic Strategy is not a reaction to the recession, but a program to help our community be business friendly and to help businesses be more competitive. This also helps our region become more resistant to future recessions.

In 2010, the EVC launched this project with support from our county Board of Supervisors and business leaders to commission a deep analysis of our local economy. We first needed to know the strengths and weaknesses in our economy, determine which sectors provide job growth and assess how our county compares to other regions in the state.

As a result, experts conducted an assessment of the economy with input from more than 120 business leaders. With leadership and support from county supervisors and staff, this first-ever public/ private partnership was born to create an economic strategy.

Since launching the program, EVC has received a statewide award in 2012 from the California Association for Local Economic Development.

The economic strategy has been in the implementation phase for approximately two years. Its goals include working closely with business and county government leaders to make public policies more business friendly so our region remains competitive.

On Oct. 23, the program passed a milestone when the Board of Supervisors adopted an update to the economic element of the county’s general plan. This new economic element, which references the economic strategy, will enable the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to consider a project or a policy’s consistency with economic policies contained in the county’s general plan.

An outcome of the economic strategy led the Board of Supervisors to adopt a one?year, two?phase pilot project for a program managed by the EVC to measure the economic impacts of project and government policies. Phase 1 of this pilot project involves selecting projects of different sizes and types whereby outcomes will be reviewed and presented to the Board of Supervisors.

The project started with the business community and county government, and based on the accomplishments of this effort, the next phase will work and collaborate with the seven cities throughout the county.

The EVC is committed to creating solutions, as we believe that healthy communities require a thriving business community.

Kris Vardas is chairman and Michael Manchak is president and chief executive officer of the Economic Vitality Corporation.

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