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. [perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Supporters envision 18,000 construction jobs associated with the project, and expect the addition of approximately 5,500 permanent jobs in the county.[/perfectpullquote]
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.