By Bill Buratto
Ventura County Star – June 11, 2011
While less government spending is ultimately a good thing, there are transitional consequences. As federal and state governments are being focused to reduce deficits and spending, we will continue to see layoffs in the public sector fueling already high levels of unemployment. This trend will have a significant trickle-down effect throughout the entire economy–including here in Ventura County.
This is a new reality we have not seen before and it calls for creative thinking. Previous solutions will not work now. During past economic slowdowns, we built shopping malls, big box stores and auto malls to generate tax revenue. Building our way out of a recession was predicated on the notion that our citizens and visitors had money to spend. What happens when they don’t? What happens when unemployment remains high, when the amount of discretionary spending continues to shrink?
We need to take local control of our own future and that means thinking outside the box. One example is the proposed Text Amendment to the County General Plan that would allow Conditional Use Permits for permanent filming on non-agricultural producing land by the entertainment industry. Our proximity to Hollywood as well as our geography and climate make us a desirable location for filming. It is a clean industry that pays well and will stimulate economic activity throughout the county.
Government and business both need making buying local a priority. Too often, we hire consultants or give contracts to those outside of Ventura County. We need to give weight to local business, where we know the dollars spent are going back into the county. “Buy local” has never been so important.
We also need to support the economic sectors in our county that have the most growth potential.
Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) is our largest employer with 17,000 jobs and $1.6 billion in annual economic activity. We need to be ready to advocate on behalf of NBVC, as we did in 1995 and 2005 when the base was facing closure–it will happen again, possibly in 2015. We must also support the local private sector that is a part of the Navy’s economic eco-system. VCEDA created TRIAD in 2007 to bring together the private sector and military to stimulate economic activity. Our Military Business and Community Expos are an example of that effort. We are also meeting with local defense contractors and other businesses about creating an Advanced Defense Technology Cluster that could lead to opportunities for new advanced military and commercial technologies.
The Port of Hueneme is another jobs focal point. Seven billion dollars in cargo value moves through the port each year and port-related activity generates over $650 million of economic activity with 4,500 direct or indirect jobs. The new Rice Road interchange will dramatically improve goods movement to and from the port. However, challenges such as improving the rail system, energy and security are looming and require our attention.
Other critical industries that are primed for continued growth and should be sustained are agriculture bio/high tech-manufacturing, tourism and medical services. Finally, the education sector must not be ignored. Educational institutions are important not just because of their economic impact, but because they must be strong and vital to educate and train our future workforce. This will be even more challenging as public institutions see dramatic cuts in funding.
Our focus should be on how to make all these economic engines and their economic eco-systems more profitable, sustainable and poised to create more jobs.
These goals are attainable as long as we work together. It is easy to be caught up in national and state politics with its rhetoric and posturing–especially as election season begins in full force. We shouldn’t be mired in ideology. We should all be focused on what is best for Ventura County.
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