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National politics generate a dizzying amount of polarizing sound on countless issues. But one constant, bipartisan agreement is that our economy has left too many people struggling to get by, let alone get ahead. That is certainly true on the Central Coast.

That’s why more than 150 business and civic leaders have come together to launch the Hourglass Project, a results-oriented, economic-development organization focused on creating high-quality jobs throughout the Central Coast, stretching from Vandenberg AFB through San Luis Obispo County to Camp Roberts.

Led and funded primarily by the private sector, the Hourglass Project will work with government, education and nonprofit partners to increase head-of-household jobs across the Central Coast.

Why is this effort needed?

Our region has underperformed as an economy for at least two decades. We are too reliant on lower-wage jobs, and underemployment is nine times worse than the state average. Couple that with above-average high housing costs, and it’s no wonder that good companies are pulling up stakes, the middle class is being squeezed out, and opportunities to build a life, a family and a career here on the Central Coast are dwindling.

Right now in each of our communities, many good people are working hard to solve these challenges, but these are larger than any one community can solve.

Instead of competing for a bigger slice of the pie, we need to collaborate across all our communities to create a bigger pie, one that better serves all residents.

By leveraging our region’s numerous world-class assets, we can help everyone do better. As examples, consider:

Tech talent: Increasingly, our region is showing strengths in technological innovation. We can enhance conditions to help our tech businesses grow and to enable our home-grown talent to build lives here.

Aerospace/defense: As a commercial and military launchpad, Vandenberg is rivaled only by Cape Canaveral. With this asset, numerous manufacturers are positioned to grow and expand.

Renewable energy: Our region has served as a major source of California’s power for decades. Now, new innovation is taking place with wind, wave and tidal technologies that could stamp our region s a source of innovation.

Decommissioning and Diablo’s Future: While the impending closure of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant means the loss of hundreds of higher-paying jobs, Diablo’s decommissioning is a multi-billion-dollar project that needs to be shepherded thoughtfully to capture job opportunities.

Agri-tech: Food production is a national security issue, and our region is a major agricultural player as well as home to Cal Poly, the nation’s fifth-largest undergraduate program and vital producer of resourceful and innovative talent.

These, and many others to be discovered, are solid strengths that need to be cultivated on a regional scale. To start, we are going to create a regional jobs playbook for action to foster job creation; work with partners to support business growth and expansion; and drive policy solutions at the regional, state and federal levels.

We do not presume to have all the answers. Our intention is to draw on this region’s imagination, talent and expertise to achieve results.

We invite you to join us in our pursuit of a renewed Central Coast as it could and should be. Connect with us at www.hourglassproject.org or via email at collaborate@hourglassproject.org.

Together, let’s discover what we are capable of achieving when we think bigger and act collectively.

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Ty Safreno chairs the Hourglass Project’s Board of Directors. Glenn Morris is a founding board member of the Hourglass Project.

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