This column was contributed by Kollin Kosmicki, who is running for San Benito County Supervisor District 2. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
When it comes to economic development, local leaders sometimes point to inherent disadvantages such as our geography and rural setting. I’m someone who embraces challenges, though, and I believe San Benito County has a foundation for economic prosperity.
As a candidate for District 2 supervisor in San Benito County, I’ve laid out a specific plan to get our economy rolling in the right direction. Here are some of my priorities:
Incentive program for new or expanding businesses
The most important step toward improving the local economy—and quality of life for local residents—is attracting and retaining employers that provide good, local jobs. I propose the county, with the help of the newly rejuvenated Economic Development Corporation, develop a formal incentive program to entice new and expanding businesses.
I am proposing this entail components that include:
- Streamline the planning process for construction of new industrial and commercial developments that would create new jobs.
- Reduce planning and building impact fees for industrial and commercial developments that would create new jobs.
- Promote the relatively low fees and convenient planning process as part of broader economic development efforts.
When it comes to impact fees, taking a temporary hit on revenue is well worth the long-term return for the economy—because offering good jobs closer to home means residents can spend more time and money locally.
Secure future for Gavilan campus
Gavilan College has a qualified, elected board overseeing decisions, but it’s also vitally important for San Benito County’s economy to ensure a viable future for the community college in San Benito County. I would work with Gavilan College leaders to make sure the local satellite campus project stays on track while encouraging a streamlined planning process to get it done as soon as possible.
Support business groups with accountability measures
The county currently plans to use a portion of its business license tax revenue to boost funding to the EDC, San Benito County Chamber of Commerce and other business groups. I strongly support those efforts, but also would like implementation of formalized metrics to track progress and ensure the groups are wisely using taxpayer funds. The county should stay on top of all organizations using taxpayer money through regularly scheduled reports and oversight.
Strengthen Tourism Promotion Program
One initiative on the Chamber of Commerce’s radar is a much-needed enhancement to local tourism promotion. The county board must remain apprised on development of the program and its progress, and should be involved on some level with its execution considering the significant taxpayer investment.
A particular component I would like to see emphasized in this plan is an expanded sign program for tourist destinations such as Pinnacles National Park, Hollister Hills, historic San Juan and the local wine trail. I’ve proposed the county commission a series of artistic monument signs for placement along Highway 101 at or near the county’s entrance. Thoughtful, artistic signs along 101—in strategic locations—would go a long way toward promoting San Benito County’s top tourism stops.
I also would like to see the county reconsider renaming all of Highway 25 to Pinnacles National Park Highway. Just a small portion of the highway was renamed six years ago due to reluctance on the board. That’s not good enough. County government and business leaders should do more to promote Pinnacles and other outdoor attractions, and this is one simple way to do it.
The county also must stay aggressive in its lobbying efforts at the federal level to reopen San Justo Reservoir. It’s a shame this local recreation gem has been closed for nearly a dozen years. In the meantime, the county should explore developing another local lake or reservoir into a family-friendly, outdoor attraction.
Broadband infrastructure upgrade
One of the biggest economic disadvantages here is a lack of high-speed broadband infrastructure. I’m proposing San Benito County, Hollister and San Juan Bautista work together to map out a formal plan—with specific milestones and a completion date—which involves investing in a major upgrade to local broadband infrastructure.
Broadband infrastructure is comprised of fiber lines necessary to develop ultra-high-speed Internet access. San Benito County severely lacks broadband, making us a virtual non-starter for most large employers.
I would suggest county leaders partner with the two cities, and help to fund this initiative with some revenue from the newly approved business license tax along with an aggressive pursuit of grants.
Execute our own General Plan
Otherwise, the county has a plethora of ideas in its own General Plan that haven’t been executed to the fullest extent since the document’s adoption four years ago. I’m supportive of such concepts as business incubators in partnership with Gavilan College; developing and publicizing a real estate database of available industrial and commercial properties; better economic and transportation cooperation with neighboring counties, and development of a strong business retention program.