Determining a vision for North Santa Barbara County will be an integral part of its economic growth, according to speakers at a forum Thursday in Santa Maria.
Local business and community leaders pondered that thought during the “Futures Forum”, hosted by the Economic Alliance of Northern Santa Barbara County, better known as EconNSBC.
The alliance of economic development stakeholders, which teamed up about a year ago, aims to enhance economic stability in the region through innovation. Notable among the group endeavors discussed Thursday were efforts to gather research in hopes of attracting a four-year university to serve Central Coast students in Santa Maria.
Attendees were treated to a virtual keynote speaker whose voice and face — though physically in Florida — emitted from a computer screen and projectors in a room at Santa Maria Energy.
Alliance co-founder Vicki Conner said streaming in Simon Anderson, a “futurist” and co-author of Foresight 20/20: Emerging Trends that are Transforming the Coming Decade, was a way to get folks used to one aspect of ever-changing technology.
Anderson offered a peek into the future workforce, which will be anything but traditional. He estimated that by 2020, 50 percent of workers will be freelancers who have embraced technology and the choices that come with it.
Anderson emphasized a need to change how the next generation is educated.
“There are smart devices everywhere,” he said. “Technology is constantly creating and destroying careers right now. We’ve been teaching the same way we’ve taught for hundreds of years. But the world is changing much faster. We’re teaching the wrong things. As a futurist, I really hope to be a catalyst for discussion.”
Following the forum theme — “Possibility Thinkers Launching a High-Performance Community” — on-site keynote Rick Bess told those in attendance to use their resources and have the courage to create vision.
Bess, founder of a Silicon Valley firm that specializes in organizational innovation solutions, came back recently to his hometown of Santa Maria to try to direct change that will enable growth.
“You represent the agent of change here in Santa Maria,” Bess said. “But a lot of us won’t be around 50 years from now. You have to think. And then you have to put yourself out there. Trends are going to happen. And if you’re passive and don’t do anything about it, they’re going to happen to you.“
Bess encouraged reaching out to other areas for resources, customers and innovative business ideas that may not even require brick and mortar buildings.
“These are the kinds of businesses that could just as well be here,” he said, noting a need to have courage in ideas. “We need to have incentives for certain kinds of businesses. This is not easy and you’re going to (sometimes) be wrong.”
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