The Hollister City Council voted unanimously Aug.15 to approve a one-year memorandum of understanding with the Economic Development Corporation of San Benito County for $100,000. The funding would match the amount pledged by the San Benito County Supervisors, said City Manager Brett Miller.
The corporation originally asked that funding of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for San Benito County cover the next five-year period (2023-28).
The council, though, maintained the agreement would be for only one year, according to Miller, mostly in order to align it with other agreements and coordinate them for future renewals.
Councilman Tim Burns asked Miller if the agreement contained coordinated reports to keep the council apprised of the work EDC is doing on behalf of the city. He also asked if there is an “early-out” clause within the agreement. Miller told him the council could add a stipulation for regular reports to the motion, and that the city would have 180 days to cancel the agreement. Miller asked that the contract contain a 90-day termination clause and for EDC to submit written quarterly reports.
Councilwoman Dolores Morales wanted assurance that before the agreement was signed there would be a clear understanding of the performance measures and what “shovel-ready” projects EDC was already working on to qualify for federal and state funding.
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez told Renee Wells, EDC executive director, who was sitting in the audience, that in the past he had concerns about EDC’s performance. He said, however, that he had confidence in her and the organization.
“We had that long conversation about putting the focus at the airport, the 1,500 acres that are already zoned for commercial/industrial and already have the infrastructure there,” he said to her. “We had long conversations about Hwy 25 and the things that the state is looking for. The biggest of those is what they call VMT, vehicle miles traveled. What they don’t want is more people using highways to travel to work. They want jobs close to where our citizens live.”
He said more than 1,000 jobs have been created close to the airport over the last few years.
“I know you guys are going to take this to a new level, but I really want to make sure we’re staying focused,” he said, and then alluded to the federal government’s focus on chip manufacturing in the U.S. “They should be made in Hollister.”
Wells did not speak at the meeting and has not immediately responded to BenitoLink’s request for comment.
The mayor’s insistence that EDC’s efforts to bring in new business to the city harkened back to August 2021, when the council terminated its five-year agreement with EDC. At the time, the city’s contract with EDC had two more years before renewal. The council was not impressed after Executive Director Marc Fontes gave a report on March 15, 2021, then ordered that the contract be terminated.
We need your help. Support local, nonprofit news! BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team is committed to this community and providing essential, accurate information to our fellow residents. It is expensive to produce local news and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s public service, nonprofit news.