A regional collaborative organization known as REACH is trying to fill the billion dollar-plus hole that will be left in our regional economy due to the impending closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
REACH is putting a lot of eggs in the Vandenberg Air Force Base basket, hoping that the multi-trillion dollar space industry will save our regional economy from oblivion.
One potential problem with this plan is whether or not a new private commercial space complex located on VAFB property will be subject to the regulatory and permitting authority of the federal government, or alternatively, the deadly juggernaut involving the county planning and development dept, the air pollution control district and the dastardly California Coastal Commission.
A few of the highlights of the report include the fact that Central Coast residents are losing hope in the American Dream! That is, more than half of the residents on the Central Coast want to move. How bad is our economy? One in four middle-class residents must borrow to cover a $500 emergency!
REACH presented additional statistics to the Board of Supervisors. Statistics such as: two out of three jobs in the region pay less than $50,000 a year; more than half of Central Coast jobs are considered low paying (53% compared to 47% statewide); the median wage for these low-paying jobs is $25,000, keeping workers stuck in or near poverty; low-wage jobs are growing faster that high-wage jobs by 6.6 percentage points; underemployment is nine times worse than the state average; job volatility due to automation is projected to be 36% greater than the national average over the next five to ten years; only about 20% of the homes in the region are affordable to a family earning the median income.
The report summarizes the same as follows: “The picture is sobering. Our region is fast becoming a place of have and have-nots, attractive only to visitors and wealthy retirees and at risk of squeezing out the middle class- our young professionals, school teachers, police officers, health care workers, and families.
“As a result, the area’s prized quality of life increasingly becomes unsustainable or outright unattainable for far too many residents. While each of the region’s communities has tried valiantly to improve the conditions for job growth, meaningful traction has been elusive. A new, coordinated and disciplined regional approach is needed.”
Our situation is summarized by Melissa James, REACH CEO: “What we know is the status quo is simply not good enough. If we want the people of the Central Coast today and our kids tomorrow to have the opportunity to build a life, a home, a family, a career on the Central Coast, we must shift course.”
How many times will we need to hear this same information and prescription for a healthy regional community and economy? Things will never change unless and until the “haves” in our region realize that economic growth is not a zero-sum game.
Finally, I don’t disagree with any of the analysis provided by REACH except that the recommendations don’t go far enough, in that the shoes they are selling don’t quite fit our feet! What do I mean by that?
The plan to create high-tech jobs will certainly help some in our community. However, tens of thousands of locals will never qualify for those jobs. They need good old-fashioned blue-collar manufacturing and industry jobs, the very type jobs California in general, and Santa Barbara County in particular, has indicated time and time again, are not welcome here.
In fact, these jobs have been driven out of our country, state and county in droves, while activists in power, such as those associated with the Environmental Defense Center, drivel on and celebrate.
Andy Caldwell is the executive director of COLAB and the host of The Andy Caldwell Show weekdays from 3-5 p.m. on News-Press Radio AM 1290.