The San Benito Business Council this week announced its support of the 2017-2022 San Benito County Comprehensive Economic Development strategy. Here is that strategy’s Executive Summary.
How do we build on our strengths and maximize our opportunities? How do we reach out to others who have faced similar obstacles to learn from their experiences? How do we inspire our residents to come together to build our community that will be better for all? What is the recipe for economic vitality and creating a high quality of life for all residents?
The Economic Development Corporation of San Benito County and its Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Committee have spent the last 24 months conducting visioning, workshops, and collaborative meetings in order to arrive at the priorities and action plan in this strategy document.
Again and again, the data shows the effects of the out-commuting phenomenon. At least half of the county’s employed residents commute to jobs outside the county—primarily Santa Clara and Monterey counties. Income levels, housing prices, poverty levels, retail sales, traffic congestion, the Jobs Housing Balance, and other data confirm that Hollister, San Juan Bautista and the unincorporated areas are “bedroom communities” that would greatly benefit by more local job opportunities.
Projected growth in population, housing, employment, education, industrial output and farm output is expected to be between 1 percent and 1.6 percent per year for the foreseeable future. With the continued Silicon Valley influence, incomes and taxable sales may rise with inflation to as much as 2.5 percent per year. However, unless proactively addressed, the existing economic circumstances will not change.
The clear solution is to create more in-county jobs by taking advantage of ample shovel-ready industrial land, and by actively recruiting in the traded and local clusters of food processing, manufacturing, bio and ag technologies, retail, healthcare, and visitor serving industries. Active recruitment will shift the economy toward stronger employment and away from the forces favoring housing development and out-commuting. Tax revenues would likewise diversify. The three local jurisdictions and partner entities can affect the desired shift only if they invest together on staffing, promotion, broadband development, streamlined permitting, workforce skill development, and expanded visitor capacity.
Travel spending and employment are lower than expected for a county with so many exciting attractions, indicating a clear area of opportunity – for enhanced downtown, cultural heritage and Mission San Juan Bautista-related, wine trail, State Park and other recreational visitation.
Eight economic development objectives for the next five years and to the five Action items for the next 12 months.
The Eight Prioritized 5-Year Objectives
- Act Collaboratively among the three local jurisdictions and the many economic development entities within the county, recognizing the important role of each in a thriving local economy
- Invest in Job Creation, Local business development and attraction: a promotion program to be led by new staff of the EDC of San Benito County, and supported by other member and service providers
- Invest in talent development, retention and education: expanded collaborative engagement and program alignment by business, the Workforce Development Board, and local schools, universities and colleges
- Improve the business climate and competitiveness: work on efficient and timely customer service
- Invest in infrastructure maintenance and growth, including transportation, broadband, housing opportunities, cold storage, energy, water conservation and wastewater treatment;
- Support an entrepreneurial culture, including supporting innovation and targeted small business services
- Ensure community safety and health: A high quality of life requires adequate health services, crime prevention, safe structures, and emergency preparedness.
- Create economic resiliency: Plan for and create the capacity to quickly recover from future economic downturns, and from natural and environmental disasters.
The Five Action Items for the Next 12 Months
These action items are focused on implementing Objectives 1 and 2 above, with significant and measurable progress by the end of calendar year 2018:
- Expanded funding for economic development staff, housed at the Economic Development Corporation and funded by a number of entities. Options may include grants, memberships, municipal general fund support and possibly an increased TOT tax
- Joint business retention, expansion, and attraction, including target industry recruitment, active listening to the needs of existing businesses, broadband and studying the feasibility of a workshare/telecommuting facility
- Collaboration, resource and data sharing including sharing best practices and filling information gaps useful to job creation and an improved business climate
- Teaming on improved pre-application and permitting processes and infrastructure issues including ensuring speedy approvals, good advance processing and cost information for business, and forming ‘red teams’ to problem solve with applicants and business that may be considering leaving
- Develop and implement a more robust tourism marketing and promotion plan, including the wine trail, considering a hospitality district, possibly increasing the TOT tax rate, joint promotion with local attractions, and metrics to evaluate effectiveness