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The Hourglass Project's mission is to increase economic prosperity through big thinking, bold action and regional collaboration.

County Gets Sneak Peek at Central Coast Jobs Plan

Author: Administrative Office
Date: 2/11/2020 8:58 AM

Local residents and government officials got a sneak peek at the Central Coast Jobs Roadmap and Action Plan earlier this month.

Local residents and government officials got a sneak peek at the Central Coast Jobs Roadmap and Action Plan on Tuesday, Feb. 4, after a workforce survey by the Hourglass Project painted a stark portrait of the challenges facing Central Coast workers today.

“Hourglass is putting the finishing touches on a 10-year jobs-action plan to forge a more resilient, inclusive, regional economy,” Hourglass CEO Melissa James said in a recent news release. “Hourglass was established to find solutions, not merely identify problems.”

The roadmap, which will be fully unveiled in March 2020, will help the Central Coast region create living wage jobs using four strategic priorities:

  1. Accelerate job growth in target industries, specifically aerospace and defense, knowledge and innovation, “agritech”, and energy/”cleantech”.
  2. Create world class innovation hubs, including a thriving spaceport at Vandenberg Airforce base and influencing the transformation of Diablo Canyon lands.
  3. Break down barriers to job creation by addressing transportation, water and housing challenges, and spurring infrastructure investment through collaboration and innovation.
  4. Prepare residents for current and future jobs by integrating and expanding educational opportunities.

The County Board of Supervisors received and filed the Hourglass Project’s presentation previewing the Central Coast Jobs Roadmap and Action Plan. The presentation painted a stark portrait of the Central Coast workforce. The Central Coast Jobs Roadmap and Action Plan will be officially unveiled on March 16, 2020.

Last year, the County Board of Supervisors granted $300,000 in economic development funds made possible through SB 1090 to the Hourglass Project to develop the jobs roadmap. The requested grant funding was expected to provide approximately 35 percent of the Hourglass Project’s capital campaign fund.

Under pressure from high housing costs and relatively low-paying wages, a significant percentage of Central Coast residents are struggling to get by and are deeply anxious about their financial future, according to the survey commissioned by the Hourglass Project.

“Despite what feels like good economic times right now, the fact is our local economy has consistently performed below state and national averages for at least the past two decades,” James said. “To expand opportunity for all Central Coast residents, we knew we needed to better understand their day-to-day experiences and challenges, at home, work and beyond. What we found is a workforce that is losing hope, struggling to get by and considering leaving the area.”

Sacramento-based SJR Opinion Research designed and conducted the 28-question survey of 540 registered voters ages 18-54 across San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties. Among the key findings:

  • Just one in 529 respondents believes housing is affordable.
  • 1 in every 2 members of the middle class are considering leaving the region, as are 63 percent of Latinx respondents and 83 percent of African Americans.
  • 1 in 3 respondents say they would need to borrow money or run up credit card debt to cover a $500 emergency.
  • 56 percent believe the standard of living for middle-class workers is getting worse.
  • 1 in 10 workforce households worry simply about having enough money for food each month; 1 in 5 among Latinx households.
  • 86 percent do not expect today’s young people to be able to afford to live and work on the Central Coast as adults.

The findings indicate that labor shortages across the Central Coast could easily worsen in next few years, further constraining local economy. The survey paints a picture of a population living on the edge, scraping from paycheck to paycheck with little cushion for emergencies or retirement across all socio-economic levels. Not only do most households worry about covering basic expenses such as rent, utilities and medical bills, a majority are also under the pressure of significant debt.

“The overwhelming sentiment,” James said, “is that making a life on the Central Coast is difficult and likely to become untenable for the next generation without a significant course correction.”

The findings are part of a larger survey of 1,001 residents in San Luis Obispo and Northern Santa Barbara County, conducted via phone and online. This analysis is based on the workforce demographic, ages 18-54, with 540 respondents and a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

About The Hourglass Project

The Hourglass Project launched in November 2018 with the support of a broad-based coalition of regional business and civic leaders determined to unify the Central Coast region to forge a stronger, more resilient regional economy. The region includes nearly half a million residents in 10 cities, two counties and dozens of community service districts, stretching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in northern Santa Barbara County through San Luis Obispo County to Camp Roberts in southern Monterey County.