Uplift Central Coast Coalition launches to advance space and aeronautics across a six-county region

Map showing the six counties of California's Central CoastA trail-blazing coalition spanning six counties has come together to advance space and aeronautics across the Central Coast and create an aerospace technology corridor bridging the centers of industry to the north and south. This effort paints a cohesive and vibrant vision for the future of the region by leveraging existing assets and new investment to catalyze industry growth and create thousands of good-paying jobs.

Led by REACH, the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) and the Economic Development Collaborative (EDC), the Uplift Central Coast Coalition comprises a growing collection of industry, government and education partners across Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties.

“Each of us in our respective markets has innovative companies shaping the future of air and space, world-class universities and other valuable assets,” REACH President/CEO Melissa James said. “By connecting the dots, building a robust talent pipeline and removing barriers, we can drive transformational growth across a vast expanse of our state.”

The coalition, with REACH as the lead agency, submitted a $70 million grant application under the Biden Administration’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge for eight projects (listed here) that together would create nearly 10,000 jobs, catalyze growth for 150+ companies, spur more than $500 million in investment, train and upskill 2,000 workers per year and reach more than 30,000 K-12 students per year. The 182-page Phase 1 application to the U.S Economic Development Administration represents 13 coalition members and includes more than 90 letters of support from businesses, education, nonprofit and civic organizations, government and elected leaders.

The coalition also expects to compete for a share of California’s new $600 million Community Economic Resilience Fund, established to support inclusive and equitable regional economic development initiatives.

“This expansive coalition exemplifies the type of regional collaboration the state is aiming for in our economic recovery efforts,” said Dee Dee Myers, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). “It aligns with our vision for both sustaining and growing California’s position at the forefront of the aerospace and commercial space industries, pushing the boundaries of innovation and creating the jobs of the future.”

Committed to long-term collaboration, the coalition plans to pursue a combination of federal, state, industry and public-private partnership resources to fund a growing range of strategically aligned initiatives to:

  • Advance industry-identified requirements for workforce development from K-16, offering equitable pathways into the growing sector
  • Create two innovation districts, one for polar space launch at Vandenberg Space Force Base and one for drone and air taxi development in Monterey Bay
  • Build infrastructure and construction projects that will unlock business and job growth
  • Establish a network of three aerospace incubators to support new business formation, university partnerships and entrepreneurship.

“The global space and aeronautics industry — including next-generation drone development, rocket launch and logistics, electric air taxi innovation and other new and emerging technologies — is skyrocketing,” MBEP President/CEO Kate Roberts said. “Through rigorous collaboration and strategic investment, we firmly believe this game-changing coalition can unlock billions in economic impact and many thousands of quality jobs for the region.”

“This vision is not just of economic growth, but of increased economic opportunity for more than 2 million people across an area larger than 10 states,” EDC President/CEO Bruce Stenslie said. “The space and aeronautics industry offers great opportunity for inclusive growth, with entry-, middle- and high-level jobs in skilled labor, engineering and management. By prioritizing home-grown talent through new education and training pathways, our vision uplifts our residents as it uplifts the region and its contributions to the nation’s economy and innovation leadership.”

“The enthusiasm that has gathered around this effort in short order is truly impressive,” said Micah Weinberg, CEO of California Forward, which successfully advocated for the state’s CERF program. “With such widespread passion and commitment behind the vision, the sky really is the limit.”