The once sleepy, pastoral landscape near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport is now dotted with commercial buildings, an eclectic mix of modern agrarian and contemporary airport architecture.
"With the Great Recession, zero happened, but all of a sudden things popped out of the ground,” said Carol Florence, principal at Oasis Associates, a land-use planning firm that helped to spur development of a 58-acre parcel across from the airport.
Previously zoned agricultural, the property was rezoned to commercial service more than a decade ago. When the recession hit, the 26-lot subdivision sat vacant until some property owners and the county’s planning department decided to “jumpstart some projects,” said Stephanie Fuhs, county planner.
The Business Assistance Team, a county-led effort to attract business expansion and relocation, set up criteria for expediting the permitting process, Fuhs said. The team, supervised by county planners, was launched more than two years ago.
“The environmental review had been done, so we could just plug in the standards that had been set with the subdivision,” she said.
In the past 3 1/2 years, five commercial projects have been completed, totaling 117,855 square feet. Eleven have been approved, and when built, those projects will add 92,709 square feet. In all, there’s 500,000 square feet of allowable space to build.
The buildings that have arisen against the backdrop of golden hills house an array of firms, ranging from private companies to nonprofit agencies. That means more head-of-household jobs and a healthier economy, said Mike Manchak, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Vitality Corporation of San Luis Obispo County, a nonprofit provider of economic development services and business resources in the county. About 550 employees are already working at firms in this recently developed area.
Manchak noted that the Central Coast is "becoming a hotbed for startups and growing companies in a range of business sectors, resulting in a diversification of our local economy and a win-win for our communities."
Clustering companies together, as they are near the airport, is important for corporate growth, he said. "If communities cannot accommodate for such balanced growth of company facilities, the risk for communities is that they may lose the companies, jobs and taxes that they provide,” he added.
One of the first businesses to build across from the airport was Rosetta, a digital and direct interactive advertising agency, which last year opened a 48,000-square-foot office at 4800 Morabito Place.
Here are other companies who have moved into the area or plan to:
- Cloud Inc., a small manufacturing company that makes tank scrubbers and small metal parts, built a 26,000-square-foot building at 4855 Morabito Place.