A coalition of organizations and agencies hopes to use a federal grant to stimulate the economy along a swath of six Central Coast counties, with a particular focus on boosting the aerospace industry.
Regional Economic Action Coalition, or REACH, has forged an alliance of 12 nonprofit groups, colleges and universities as well as one federal agency to apply for grant funds that would drive eight general projects in areas ranging from Santa Cruz to Ventura counties.
REACH partnered with Monterey Bay Economic Partnership and Ventura County’s Economic Development Collaborative to create the coalition designated Uplift Central Coast.
“Each of us in our respective markets has innovative companies shaping the future of air and space, world-class universities and other valuable assets,” said Melissa James, president and chief executive officer of REACH.
“By connecting the dots, building a robust talent pipeline and removing barriers, we can drive transformational growth across a vast expanse of our state,” James said.
But all the plans hinge on the coalition obtaining a $70 million grant from the Biden administration’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge.
If the grant is secured, it would underwrite projects REACH says will collectively create 10,000 jobs, train 2,000 workers annually, stimulate growth among more than 150 companies and lure private investments of $500 million.
Grant funds would also be used each year to encourage 30,000 students from kindergarten through high school to study for jobs in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Some of the focus in Santa Barbara County is on Vandenberg Space Force Base, a partner in the Mission Development Zone project that will use a public-private partnership to create a commercial space industry technical park at the base.
The tech park would provide a base of operations for businesses supporting the growing commercial space launch programs at Vandenberg.
Santa Maria Public Airport District is the lead agency for a similar effort, Uplift’s proposed Aerospace Commercial Zone project.
That project will use grant funds to integrate utilities and extend an airport area road to improve circulation and access for expanding aeronautics businesses on district-owned property.
Hancock College is the co-lead for the Central Coast Space and Aeronautical Skills Alliance, an effort to expand existing aeronautical and space-related training programs as well as develop new ones at nine community college campuses.
In addition to Hancock, programs would be expanded or developed at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo County and community colleges in Ventura, Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.
Another planned Uplift project will establish an Aerospace Incubator Center at Cal Poly to support research and innovation in aerospace-related fields, according to the grant application.
Similar centers are proposed for Ventura Fathomwerx and UC Santa Cruz.