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Goleta Adopts Economic Development Strategic Plan

The plan aims to stimulate job growth with a focus on tourism, local businesses and the tech industry

Following up on an ongoing drive for economic revitalization, the Goleta City Council on Tuesday voted in its first Economic Development Strategic Plan, a document a little more than a year in the making, but years in the planning.

“It is timely, it allows ample flexibility and it sends an incredibly strong message about where we’re positioning ourselves as a city,” said Councilman Eric Onnen, who was part of the committee overseeing the writing of the EDSP.

Encompassing topics such as tourism, local business and opportunities for growth in Goleta’s technology sector, the plan is aimed at “leveraging Goleta’s existing assets” in an effort to stimulate job growth and job retention, he said. Goleta’s unemployment rate hovers around 4 percent.

“Furthermore, the Economic Development Strategic Plan is intended to be flexible and adaptable so it can meet current and future priorities of the City Council,” Onnen added.

Among the EDSP’s specific goals are intentions to create a diverse employment base, increase tourism, expand local partnerships, improve the city’s permitting process and focus attention on Old Town.

At least one local company already has benefited from the city’s intensified efforts to assist local businesses. ATK Space Systems will celebrate its 25,000-square-foot expansion on Monday. The business, at 600 Pine Ave. in Goleta’s Old Town, increases its square footage thanks to a collaboration with the city and its landlord, The Towbes Group.

Expansion of tech-industry businesses in Goleta is at least one issue the EDSP will have to address on an ongoing basis. Because of the city’s proximity to UCSB, it has enjoyed the business of tech startups that spin off from the university. However, because of the limited amount of space, the businesses usually elect to move elsewhere should they decide to expand.

Some residents were on hand Tuesday to comment on the city’s strategy.

Jessica Laughlin, representing the owners of a drive-in theater in Old Town, aired her clients’ concern that the city’s future designation of the property on the west side of Highway 217 didn’t serve their interest to create a more lucrative retail operation in the area.

“We continue to take issue with the city’s future park designation,” Laughlin said. “Given the city’s desire to revitalize Old Town into residential office and retail, we believe that the park designation contradicts the efforts of both economic development and restricts our properties’ ability to contribute to sales and property taxes.”

However, the city’s efforts were praised by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce. “In fact, we’re excited,” GVCC president/CEO Kristen Amyx said.

Noting that the ambitious plan as a whole might be biting off more than the city could chew for now, Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves nevertheless supported the plan.

“If we don’t have a plan to move forward, then we’re not going to go anywhere,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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