Recently, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors approved the distribution of their $35,000 annual economic development funding. It was an amount more designed to provide political cover than get results. Now, technically, they can’t be accused of failing to invest in economic development although that is what actually happened.
Think about it, what kind of a regional economic development campaign can anyone run for $35,000 a year even if all the funds went to a single entity, which in this case, they did not?
For a California county to rise above the level where it is nothing but a conduit as a federal and state public welfare provider, it must benefit from the economics of large public institutions such as colleges, private business activity, extraordinary resident wealth or some combination of the three.
The Supervisions constantly lament the county’s economic condition and just as constantly refuse to do anything about it. Let’s hope they have a secret plan to stimulate the local economy because public plans do not exist, just platitudes, and history has shown that struggling entities fall lower and remain down longer when the inevitable next recession comes. The short version is a question – if they can’t find adequate economic development funding when times are good, how are they going to find it when times are bad?
The board fails to recognize the importance of key economic factors such as local employment rates and per capita income, nor do they understand that economic development is a competition. A typical competitor is San Luis Obispo County which had a 2016 estimated population of 283,000 and funded their non-profit Economic Vitality Corporation (EVC) with $673,800 or $2.38 per capita, while we “competed” with 25 percent of that per capita, $0.60.
Now will come the pre-packaged excuse, “They have it and we don’t.” Well then, we need economic development even more than they do. A funding rate of $2.38 per capita for SBC would cost less than $150,000 a year. Put another way it would cost less than the Tiger Salamander mitigation of the Hospital Road Bridge delayed these so many years.
In fact, the county is full of delayed bridge projects and the primary reason is lack of staff, the Feds are funding most of the project costs. We have no staff because we have no money, we have no money because we have no economic development. We have no economic development because the county does not fund it either out of neglect or for political reasons I simply cannot fathom.
Who suffers? The residents suffer, but the county does get to process a lot of public welfare claims and welfare spending. Bridges, roads, libraries, adequate public safety staffing, good local jobs and the rest can all wait – and they will – because the county has chosen to stay poor.