Community Opinions

COLUMN: Project is the potential job-producer we need

District 2 Supervisor candidate Wayne Norton writes that the county has an opportunity to counter pandemic's economic impacts. (Illustrative of Strada Verde site plan taken from public filing of initiative.)

This column was contributed by Wayne Norton, candidate for SBC Supervisor District 2. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

The proposed project for the northwest corner of the county could be a welcome first step toward pulling us out of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With businesses closing, debts mounting, and skyrocketing unemployment, we need local jobs NOW. That’s why I like what I see with the Strada Verde Innovation Park. The project proposes a state-of-the-art technology center, that includes autonomous and electric vehicle research and development, and commercial and light industrial uses. 

This project has the potential to be an important job-producer. Supporters envision 18,000 construction jobs associated with the project, and expect the addition of approximately 5,500 permanent jobs in the county. And because those jobs will range from research, light industrial, retail, and service industries, there will be a need for workers of a variety of skill levels. These good-paying jobs right here in San Benito County would reduce the need to commute to the Bay Area to work.

Supporters envision 18,000 construction jobs associated with the project, and expect the addition of approximately 5,500 permanent jobs in the county.

The local school district would benefit from the increased value of the property. And because Strada Verde does not have any residential housing, there would be no sprawl or increase in students.

Taxes generated from the project would help the county pay for road improvements and enhanced services.

Of course, a certain amount of caution is prudent.

San Benito County residents are familiar with developers who make big promises only to find out they are “all hat and no cattle.” We need to ask hard questions about traffic circulation, environmental protections, ensuring prevailing wage, union jobs and local hiring, its impact on agriculture and more. We need to insist that every aspect of the project be subject to a thorough public review.

However, we cannot let knee-jerk anti-economic development forces drive away a golden opportunity before we’ve started. The potential benefit to our residents demands we give it every chance to prove itself and succeed. 

 

Wayne Norton

Recognized by the State Assembly in 2019 for protecting the environment, Wayne Norton is a two-term elected Aromas Water District director and candidate for San Benito County Supervisor in District 2. A Vietnam veteran and former political reporter, Wayne was the managing editor of the daily Hollister Free Lance. He is an active advocate for quality public education and was a founding staff member of Anzar High School, a California Distinguished School. As a former Ombudsman, Wayne protected the rights of residents in nursing homes and investigated elder abuse. He currently serves as a director on the Seniors Council of Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties, and has consistently led and volunteered for a variety of public commissions and community organizations since moving to the area in 1985. Wayne can be contacted at (831) 227-3530, nortonforsupervisor@gmail.com, waynenorton.com or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.