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Bud Colligan responds to County Economic Vitality Strategy

By Bud Colligan
South Swell Ventures

[Editor’s note: Santa Cruz Tech Beat has published a variety of articles about the County’s Economic Vitality Strategy. You can find links at the end of this feature article.]


I have read the Economic Vitality Strategy (EVS) for the County of Santa Cruz prepared by BAE Urban Economics. First, I would like to commend the Board of Supervisors and staff for undertaking this study and spending the time and money to produce a draft economic vitality strategy for the county. Below I have provided my feedback and ideas about the report, first with some broad observations and a summary of my conclusions and then with specific feedback on each of the seven goals articulated in the report.


The overall direction of the draft EVS is encouraging. The EVS acknowledges that we must “expand the county’s economic base in order to create fiscal sustainability for local government.” The report is also clear that we must balance growth and development with local values of sustainability and adopt a “21st Century forward looking view.” These statements imply a more “business friendly” and proactive approach by the county to promote business formation, growth and retention, while respecting our heritage in environmental stewardship.

The report has some good suggestions, but also reads like a laundry list of half measures, many starting with the recommendation to “encourage and support X, Y or Z.” There is no indication of the relative importance of each item in the detailed two year work plan. It would be useful to have an indication of which initiatives are believed to be the real game changers, which ones are table stakes for establishing a level playing field with other communities, and those which will have minor, if any, impact.

It’s also important to note that the quantity of specific items in the two year work plan will lead to a expansion of county staff (many small items that require lots of people power to accomplish). Although some staff increases will be needed, I would propose organizing a training workshop for all county staff who touch planning, infrastructure, and economic development issues to better understand the needs of business for start-up, growth and retention. This may reduce the need for hiring additional staff in times of tight budgets, and focus discretionary money on big initiatives.

My major conclusions are summarized below and detailed in the specific write-up which follows:

  • Articulate and promote a clear vision and strategy for the county, and provide training to all staff to support the strategy.
  • Address critical infrastructure issues (water, roads, bandwidth, affordable housing) as soon as possible, at the very least with directional policy, so that private enterprise can understand the direction and make appropriate investment decisions to support the county’s strategy. Keep it consistent.
  • Focus action items around building a diversified, sustainable, small company economy leveraging distinct regional assets while preserving and enhancing our environment.
  • Employ the work force that actually lives here now (and leaves daily) by creating high wages jobs via the strategy above.
  • Take a regional approach in sectors like agriculture and tourism, our two biggest private sectors, to leverage existing excellence and magnify its impact.
  • Invest increasing tax revenue to provide the services in education, health care, public safety, infrastructure, parks and recreation, and the arts that the community desires.
  • Articulate and rally around a holistic brand for the county which is aspirational and encompasses the attributes and passions of the community.

Continue reading Colligan’s full response to the EVS here.

County of Santa Cruz Economic Vitality Strategy (EVS) web page:

Other Santa Cruz Tech Beat feature articles about Economic Vitality Strategy (EVS):

About Bud Colligan and South Swell Ventures:


Sara Isenberg publishes Santa Cruz Tech Beat for the benefit of the extended business and technology community. When she is not volunteering her time for the tech scene, Sara makes her living by managing software projects, web strategy planning, and providing development team services (including account management, vendor management, strategic partner management, beta project management, referrals to qualified technical team members, and more). Please visit her website: Sara Isenberg Web Consulting & Project Management, or contact Sara by email if you have any project management, account management, or Development Team leadership or service needs.

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