UCSB is renewing its long-range development plan, and will detail how the campus will grow over the next 17 years. The board of the County of Santa Barbara Industrial Association believes this Vision2025 exercise provides a terrific opportunity to examine how the county’s economic development strategy can either complement or contradict the achievements of the past 17 years. Will our county’s government stakeholders choose to be a strategic partner and leverage the intellectual and technological horsepower that’s generated from the college? Or will they instead focus on the negative impacts associated with UCSB’s inevitable growth?

When industry and academia collaborate, the results are amazing. So says UCSB’s “Engineering and the Sciences” Web site. The board of CSBIA couldn’t agree more. In fact, at CSBIA, we have long believed that forming strategic partnerships with local educational institutions is a critical element of a comprehensive regional economic development strategy.

We read with interest a recent news article that described the formation of a strategic alliance between UCSB’s engineering department and local industry and the launch of the institute for energy efficiency.

“The whole goal of the institute is to take ideas in research and get them into industry,” said John Bowers, director of the Institute for Energy Efficiency. “We want to get companies involved very heavily in the institute.”

CSBIA applauds and welcomes this enthusiasm for scaling the walls that have for too long existed between academia and the industrial sector.

Indeed, another exciting and promising development is UCSB’s Technology Management Program, which helps students understand the important relationship between business management and technology. We couldn’t be more pleased.

CSBIA has long been a strong and consistent voice for our region’s high-tech sector and the technology startups UCSB has helped create. We are proud to have been one of the underwriters to the now famous High-Tech White Paper published back in the early 1990s. That policy paper spoke about the importance of fostering strategic alliances between the education and government sectors and our local venture capital markets. That white paper spoke about the importance of helping incentivize the formation of the financial capital necessary to grow and sustain the new technologies emerging from UCSB and our local high-tech industrial core, in Goleta and Santa Barbara. And now these dynamic companies can be found in Goleta, Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and Santa Maria.

That paper’s prophetic vision has come to fruition as some of the world’s most innovative technologies have been born, incubated and grown right here in our own backyard and are exported throughout the rest of the world. Indeed, some of these companies remain a vital part of our local high-tech ecosystem producing not only tremendous financial and intellectual resources but the value-added, head of household jobs families need to afford to live here. And this economic driver continues to help steer our local economy even now. In fact, just in the last few years alone, more than $650 million in new venture capital funds have been made available to local companies with direct ties to UCSB.

The past, present and future success of our region’s economy is inextricably linked to UCSB and for that reason CSBIA supports several aspects of the university’s LRDP. Specifically, we favor UCSB’s commitment to create the housing necessary to accommodate all of the additional students allowed under the LRDP. And even though student enrollment is expected to be kept to 1 percent per year, this growth should be measured and maintained for the campus to remain a positive and productive neighbor. CSBIA also supports the LRDP’s commitment to a fair-share payment by the university for the needed traffic improvements to accommodate the expected increase in student, staff and faculty populations.

Santa Barbara County is blessed by the existence of two major and internationally renowned knowledge assets: Vandenberg Air force Base in the north and UCSB here on the South Coast. CSBIA urges the county to make every effort to capitalize on these strategic economic assets so they can continue powering our local economy and empowering local employers and employees.

CSBIA also stands ready and willing to participate in a constructive discussion on how to maximize the value of these two knowledge assets so our county and regional economy continue to lead the world in technology innovation and cutting-edge scientific discoveries.

Joe Armendariz, business development director of Armendariz Partners, is executive director of the County of Santa Barbara Industrial Association and a member of the Carpinteria City Council.