A united regional economic development network, industry roundtables, strategic advocacy and advancing opportunities around Vandenberg AFB and Diablo Canyon — now that our 10-year plan to create 15,000 good-paying jobs by 2030 and a resilient Central Coast economy has officially launched, REACH staff, supporters and partners are leaping into Year 1 implementation.
These Y1 plans focus on advancing early-stage work, scaling and solidifying mission-critical networks and empowering our partners to contribute to the shared goal of creating a thriving regional economy. And they’ve earned enthusiastic support from SLO and Santa Barbara County supervisors.
“I’m very, very excited about REACH’s (2030 jobs plan) and the direction they want to go,” SLO County Supervisor John Peshong said following a presentation by REACH at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “This is a collaboration and a coalition of people that have been successful in business and know what to do from a private-sector standpoint.”
What’s on tap for Y1
Here’s a brief look at the key areas we’re driving forward now and in the months to come. Stay tuned for more on each of these fronts.
A united, regional economic development network. We’re mobilizing the region’s economic development professionals in government, chambers of commerce and other organizations to work together on business attraction, retention and expansion efforts, increase competitiveness and opportunity, and amplify the region’s story beyond our borders.
Industry roundtables. We’re creating the structure and support for our target industries in agritech, renewable energy/clean tech, aerospace and defense, precision manufacturing and technology to take the wheel on job creation, from diagnosing barriers to identifying solutions and putting growth strategies into place.
The future of Diablo Canyon. We’re actively pursuing possibilities for renewable energy innovation and desalination at the plant following its closure in 2025. We’re working with wind developers, Cal Poly and other stakeholders to maximize those opportunities while preserving thousands of surrounding acres of pristine land and wildlife habitat.
Commercial space. With a strong foundation under our belt, we’ll continue our work to ignite a burgeoning commercial space industry into a global competitor, positioning the region to gain a larger share of the $400 billion space economy that’s expected to grow to 1 trillion by 2030 through record levels of public and private investment.
Policy and data. We’ll advance economic and business expansion through recommended policy and best practices. We’ll also develop an advocacy platform with wide-ranging policies aimed at reaching our 2030 goals, addressing workforce development, education, housing, infrastructure and more, plus new data tools to equip decision-makers with valuable business intelligence.
SLO & Santa Barbara Counties elevate economic development, support for REACH
Both SLO and Santa Barbara County supervisors have signaled a greater focus on economic development and support the REACH 2030 plan in recent weeks.
SLO County supervisors voted unanimously last week to move forward as soon as possible on creating a new high-level county position focused on economic development and a continued partnership with REACH on driving the REACH 2030 plan forward over the next several years. REACH is also working toward a similar agreement in Santa Barbara County, which recently penned a letter in support of REACH’s economic vision and initiatives.
“These are very turbulent times right now,” Peshong said during a wide-ranging SLO County Board of Supervisors discussion covering the impacts of Covid, Diablo Canyon’s impending closure and persistent, pre-existing challenges. “We need to be able to find people jobs.”
Supervisor Bruce Gibson pointed to the need for economic development to drive widespread community benefit. “We all know we have horrendous affordability problems,” he said. Economic development is “more than just a jobs plan, and it speaks to improving the prosperity and the quality of life of all.”
Supervisor Lynn Compton voiced support for REACH’s efforts on that front, noting the regional approach in bringing together cities, businesses and higher education to work collaboratively toward a stronger economy. “They have representation with a broad spectrum of our economic community out there,” she said.
Supervisor Debbie Arnold lamented the limitations of an aging county economic element, last updated in 2012, and highlighted the county’s successful partnerships with the private sector on business attraction, retention and expansion efforts through organizations including the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship/SLO Hothouse and Visit SLO CAL, which presented at the meeting along with REACH.
“It’s really a lucky thing to have all these private-sector drivers that are willing to collaborate with the county and drive things forward,” she said. “Our government role should be providing the services necessary to support economic growth, and if we stay in our lane and be support to the things that others do best and vice versa, then I think that’s when we’re going to see the most improvement in economic development.”