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An initiative led by the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, and its Economic Development Committee, is underway to support long term economic vitality, job growth, and tourism in the region. The mission of this integrated effort is to take an action-oriented approach to accelerating economic recovery, with the initial focus on the region’s downtown core.
Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce CEO, Kristen Miller says, “This is a critical initiative. As a newly merged business organization, we have a collective need to reimagine how our economy can thrive.”
The economic development committee was formed as one of the first steps following the merger of the three former chambers. It is made up of 12 business leaders who are an integral part of their communities, from Goleta to Carpinteria. Committee chair, Kirsten McLaughlin of Cox Communication shares, “Our committee members represent a diverse selection of industries and are leaders who understand how to drive economic growth. Our goal is to develop a downtown core that generates a powerful economy that ultimately extends throughout the community.”
Committee member and Montecito Bank and Trust Chairman and CEO, Janet Garufis, continues, “Our community’s residents and guests have diverse needs and interests and we want to support the development of businesses that can both respond to this demand and help downtown Santa Barbara thrive.”
The committee has approved a business recruitment and retention plan developed by local Keith Higbee of Strategic Growth & Ventures and small business advocate Amy Cooper, Owner of Plum Goods, that is now underway. Based on the wealth of existing studies and recommendations, new research and metrics and ongoing stakeholder engagement, the SBEDP will aim to recruit a diverse mix of entities to repopulate downtown Santa Barbara’s core business district. This effort will include addressing business retention and support for our current small business community.
This initiative is a bridge between private and public entities and independent of any one interest. Gaining insight from city planners and officials, commercial realtors, business owners and leaders, developers, nonprofit partners, and more, is the key to developing an actionable plan to successfully drive thoughtful economic development in the downtown core.
Francois De John, a founding partner at Hayes Commercial Group also sits on the committee. He shares the value of this initiative. “This is a great opportunity to build a successful partnership between commercial realtors and a focused group of business and community leaders. Our industry always welcomes creative ways to identify strategic businesses that can become a long term part of State Street, and beyond.”
A key to this plan’s success is the alignment in the vision of State Street’s future and how to create a thriving district that will ultimately extend beyond the confines of State Street and serve the entire region.
An informational survey will soon be conducted to gain input from the community and results will be shared in the coming weeks. This initial venture is funded by the Chamber, with additional partners including City of Santa Barbara, Visit Santa Barbara, and Better Together Fund. More partners will be identified as funding is secured.