On May 3, 2022, the County of Mendocino Board of Supervisors (BoS) voted to appoint West Business Development Center (West Center) as the Economic Development Liaison for the County’s economic development program. Passed unanimously, the action directs the Executive Office to work with West Center as the first phase of their economic development program strategy. The $175,000, 12-month contract was negotiated in coordination with the BoS Economic Development Ad Hoc Committee, the County’s Executive Office, and the Planning & Building Services Department.
West Center is contracted to provide services in three strategic areas: economic development capacity; business recruitment and retention; and workforce development. The need for a lead agency was highlighted by the findings of the Mendocino Opportunities for building a Vibrant Economy (MOVE 2030) initiative. This year-long community-based planning process, funded by the federal Economic Development Administration, laid the groundwork for a more resilient economy in Mendocino County. This was achieved in 2020 through a broad stakeholder engagement process that involved community leaders, organizations, strategic public, private, and non-profit partners, industry representatives, and public policy advocates. The five strategies for the County’s action are summarized as:
- Bolster the county’s economic development infrastructure
- Strengthen the small business and entrepreneurship environment
- Build, support and retain a robust and adaptable County workforce
- Address housing affordability and barriers to new development
- Expand regional broadband access
Mendocino County Economic Vitality was a key pillar of the 2022 Mendocino County Strategic Plan, adopted by the BoS on January 23, 2022. West Center will support implementation of the County’s strategic plan by collaborating with community partners and businesses to identify areas where the County can support business attraction, development, and expansion and implement policies and practices to make it easier for businesses to start-up and expand.
Supervisor Glenn McGourty (District 1) stated, “. . . we are creating our own eco-system to access numerous grants in the coming year…. I’m confident this plan is going to work.” Likewise, Supervisor John Haschak (District 3) said, “We’re going to get a lot more out of this contract … we don’t have anyone in the County to do this work and it’s critical. We are at a critical juncture as far as economic development. We need to move forward with this.”
West Center wants to acknowledge the invaluable contributions of Jim Mayberry of Rainbow Ag, County Superintendent of Schools Michelle Hutchins, Mendocino College President Tim Karas, Willits Mayor Gerry Gonzalez, and the other members of the West Center Board of Directors to and the many community members who participated in both MOVE 2030 and whose efforts lead to this contract.
With the backing of the Board of Supervisors, West Center will start the work of identifying and sourcing grant funding opportunities that will further core economic development efforts in the County. West Center has already begun work under their new contract and will report their findings and progress in monthly reports to the Board of Supervisors.