Housing, transportation, water and high-speed connectivity form the foundation of virtually all economic activity.
These basic building blocks are essential to supporting the workforce needed to fuel the expansion of existing companies, proliferation of start-ups and attraction of new business. But they have been lacking on the Central Coast, holding our economy back from its full potential.
To promote job growth, economic development work must tie into regional planning efforts. This requires the public and private sectors to collaborate on forward-thinking, long-term regional strategies for infrastructure planning and implementation.
A Regional CEDS
The CEDS — a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy involving extensive industry and community engagement — will both broaden the plan across the entire two-county region and expand on specifics. The result of this community-wide initiative will be a deeply detailed vision and strategy for inclusive economic prosperity for San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.
A 6-County CERF
Led by three economic development organizations — the Economic Development Collaborative, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership and REACH — Uplift Central Coast is widening and deepening its collaborative efforts under California’s Community Economic Resilience Fund, a promising new opportunity to bring resources to the coastal region spanning Santa Cruz to Ventura.
The Central Coast is a microcosm of the state, which has a housing shortage estimated at 3 to 4 million units and is producing only half of the units needed to keep up with current demand.
The lack of housing affordable to the workforce is widely considered one of the biggest drags on our economy, hindering the region’s ability to attract and retain a talented workforce. Adequate and diverse housing supply is dependent on infrastructure, underscoring the need for a comprehensive, integrated approach to planning and implementation.
With existing roads and public transportation aging rapidly, the region has an urgent charge to address planning, prioritizing and funding. To pave the way for job creation – plus reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate traffic congestion – we need to start planning today not just for the next few years but the next few decades.
That means thinking big about the future of mobility, considering options from enhanced bus service and commuter rail, leveraging the rail backbone that runs through the region’s population centers, to new roads and interchanges. It also calls for innovative partnerships with app-based transportation companies and “last mile” transit options such as e-bikes and scooters.
Our current water capacity and policies need to be updated to successfully address the next severe drought, which experts predict could span many years or even decades. It is imperative that we devise a comprehensive region-wide water strategy that draws on sharing resources, investing in water infrastructure and system connectivity, creating additional local water storage and increasing supply through desalination, recycling and other means.
Building resilience into long-term water planning can reduce water-related building constraints and enable an improved jobs-housing balance, in turn reducing commuter-generated greenhouse gases and pressure on a stressed transportation infrastructure.