In an effort to celebrate northern Santa Barbara County’s industry and economic assets, share economic and job impact concerns, and discuss North County opportunities, EconAlliance hosted a team visit to Washington, D.C., the week of Oct. 7, scheduling 14 meetings between Oct. 9 and 11.
Participants met mostly with agency offices of importance to North County, in addition to meetings with Congressman Salud Carbajal’s staff and with the governor’s military affairs office. EconAlliance meetings were held in the U.S. departments of Labor, Commerce, Agriculture, Defense and Transportation, with follow-up teleconferences to be held with these and other agencies/offices.
Leading the EconAlliance policymaker education/information sessions were Joe Halsell, EconAlliance board president and CEO of Halsell Builders; Victoria Conner, EconAlliance consultant and initiatives director, and John Shoals, EconAlliance consultant. Key stakeholders participating in the D.C. trip included Holly Nolan-Chavez, regional director of ag, water and environmental technologies at Hancock College; Tracy Beard, executive director of the Solvang Chamber, and Glenn Morris, CEO, Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Several of the meetings were aligned with the EconAlliance industry support initiatives of global trade, workforce and education, innovation and entrepreneurship and more. Others were held to discuss economic assets such as Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Santa Maria Public Airport, or common needs such as broadband.
A key focus of the meetings was discussion of potential opportunities around the Rural Prosperity Initiative, a federal initiative established by executive order to help push more federal resources into rural areas. Led by the Secretary of Agriculture, the Rural Prosperity Initiative has partners in nearly every cabinet-level department. The joint task force of these agencies has established five priority areas for the initiative: e-connectivity, economic development, workforce development, quality of life, and innovation and technology.
The greater Santa Maria area, including all of northern Santa Barbara County, is being identified as a rural prosperity area. Hancock College and EconAlliance, organizational leads in this effort, jointly held a rural prosperity community conversation in September, and with the USDA are planning a Rural Prosperity Summit for the area in April 2020. It is hoped that North County’s being part of the Rural Prosperity Initiative may lead to various opportunities for North County communities.