Regional News for Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito Counties
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Act now to get early bird tickets to the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership's State of the Region 2016! The second annual State of the Region conference, "Catalyzing Community Well-Being," will take place at the Embassy Suites in Seaside on Dec. 1, 2016. This event is expected to sell out fast, so don't delay!
SPECIAL EDITION: WATSONVILLE The Next Chapter This week we're stepping out of our usual format and doing something new! We're focusing this issue on MBEP members and the city of Watsonville, celebrating the
resurgence that's been brewing in Watsonville for some time now. Change doesn't happen on its own: Many individuals, a multitude of ideas and a lot of dedication play pivotal roles in reinventing a region, and that's certainly the case in Watsonville. Subscribe Watsonville Share Assistant Past Issues City Manager Matt Huffaker shares some of his favorite
reasons to get excited about Watsonville: The FedEx distribution hub will serve an area stretching from Paso Robles to Santa Clara County. It’s expected to create hundreds of quality jobs for the community and helps to strengthen and diversify Watsonville’s economy. One of the projects we’re really excited about is expanding the city’s commercial ﬁber network, providing the fastest internet speeds in Santa Cruz County and allowing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide gigabit speeds to businesses and residents in Watsonville. Over the next year, the city will be expanding the ﬁber network to connect the business parks on Hangar Way and Technology Drive. Economic Development will be a key focus for the city, including revitalization of the downtown, incorporating a Main Street Beautiﬁcation Project, new mixed-use residential and commercial projects, as well as the Watsonville Film Festival’s revitalization of the iconic Fox Theater. – Matt Huffaker, Watsonville Assistant City Manager
"Watsonville has been put in a box, both in terms of what people think the community offers and its potential. People who live and work in Watsonville know it to be a dynamic community of industry and opportunity. We’re excited to be part of
“Watsonville has seen signiﬁcant growth over the past year, from the recent opening of a new 200,000square-foot FedEx distribution center, to the development of over 340 housing units, three new hotels, and Kaiser Permanente moving to town.
Watsonville’s future, as more businesses and families look to Watsonville as a place to start their business and raise a family.” Subscribe Share Issues –Past Charles Montoya, Watsonville City Manager
Watsonville is entering an exciting new chapter.” – Matt Huffaker, Watsonville Assistant City Manager
Watsonville Film Festival: Opening Doors in More Ways than One From the moment Consuelo Alba imagined a ﬁlm festival that would go on to become one of Watsonville's most celebrated events, she knew where it needed to take place. It's been a crazy, exciting ﬁve-year road to get there, during which the Watsonville Film Festival has grown from a single-afternoon event to a four-day showcase of cinematic arts and a celebration of culture and community. This year's festival opens Thursday in Watsonville's historic Fox Theater, marking the venue's grand reopening after a seven-year hiatus and bringing the festival home to where Alba believes it was always meant to be. "From the beginning, it was our dream to have it there downtown," says Alba, an award-winning ﬁlmmaker who co-founded the festival with her husband John Speyer, and who serves as the festival's director. "It has an amazing history and one of the biggest screens in the county." Featuring a wide range of cinematic work -- from locally produced shorts by young aspiring ﬁlmmakers to international, award-winning ﬁlms and even a community bike ride -- the Watsonville Film Festival keeps growing and evolving. "We offer a different kind of ﬁlm festival," says Alba. "We're not talking about big blockbuster movies; we're talking about movies that bring people together. Our festival celebrates community, celebrates diversity and brings people together in a beautiful way." It's taken a small army of dedicated dreamers and doers to make this "crazy and exciting" festival happen, says Alba, including independent theater owner Hank García. With a capacity of 1,000 seats, Garcia's grand old Fox Theater holds a lot of people, and Alba can already envision a platform of events at the 1923 venue that would draw audiences year-round. The multicultural ﬁlm festival continues to attract
a growing number of participants and attendees, and as it moves into a permanent home, Alba hopes some of that energy will spark new life into downtown as festival audiences look for nearby places to dine and stroll. That's what happened in Santa Cruz when two other historic theaters -- the Rio and the Del Mar -- were refurbished, Subscribe says Alba. ShareNow it's Past Issues turn. "I think reactivating the Fox Theater is key toTranslate Watsonville's revitalizing downtown," she says. "It's an anchor. Once people discover there's a reason to come to downtown, everything will happen organically." Read more News courtesy of Santa Cruz Sentinel/Santa Cruz Woman.
Breaking Ground in Making Affordable Housing Feasible An empty lot where a gas station once stood could soon become part of a downtown development bringing much-needed affordable workforce housing units to Watsonville. Santa Cruz-based housing developer Envision Housing LLC has been under contract to purchase the lot at 250 Main St. since June and entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with the City of Watsonville in July to potentially redevelop a parcel that also includes the city's old City Hall and police department. The self-described "mission-based" housing developer is studying the feasibility of bringing a mixed-use development to the site that would include apartments, mostly priced at 10 to 15 percent below market rate, along with retail, restaurants and government space. Envision Housing LLC is led by founder and managing director Eric McGrew and entrepreneur Sibley Simon, who is leading the charge to end chronic homelessness in Santa Cruz County through the 180/2020 Campaign. The development is advancing under a unique model that McGrew says Envision Housing LLC hopes to replicate in other locations: offering affordable workforce housing with costs offset by some for-sale units that help recoup costs up-front. Their innovative approach couldn't be more needed: According to McGrew, Santa Cruz County would need to build 2,000 housing units to see rents drop by 20 percent. Earlier this summer, the city council also granted approval to a 24-unit condominium project at Freedom Boulevard and Atkinson Lane and a 48-unit townhome project on Harkins Slough Road, projects that will boost the city's housing stock and add several below-market rate units. Read more News courtesy of Santa Cruz Sentinel/Register-Pajaronian.Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian.
Lakeside Organic Gardens: Two Decades of Growing Sustainability Subscribe
There was never a time in Dick Peixoto's life Translate that he wasn't immersed in the world of agriculture: The son of a fertilizer and pesticide supplier, he learned to farm as a child and had his own green bean acreage while still in high school. And while these days he's in charge of Lakeside Organic Gardens, the largest family-owned, solely organic grower-shipper in the U.S., Peixoto hasn't forgotten those who taught him along the way and helped him survive the risks of transitioning to organic farming. Share
Peixoto, who says he went broke twice during that transition, holds those lessons close to heart: Last year alone, he donated $375,000 to community organizations, from CASA of Santa Cruz County to Second Harvest Food Bank, and now Peixoto is making sure that knowledge about farming and sustainable farming methods is passed along to another generation. Early this year, he announced a $2 million donation toward the establishment of an agricultural learning center that will emphasize organic farming. As it marks its 20th year in business, Lakeside Organic Gardens is in an expansion mode that will bring new jobs and revenue to the region. A new cooling and shipping facility will be built in Watsonville, where the company is based, and its sales department will also be housed there. We're proud to have them as a member of MBEP. "Dick Peixoto was one of our early members and has been very supportive," says Bud Colligan, co-chair of the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership. "He's a great example in the community and has been instrumental on the small business side in the expansion of farmhouse culture." Read more News courtesy of The Packer. Photo courtesy of Lakeside Organic Gardens.
County Gets $20 Million Boost for Mental Health Services Mental health services across the Monterey Bay are getting a huge boost, thanks to $20 million in grants recently announced by the Central California Alliance for Health. Among them is a $2.5 million grant to Santa Cruz County for the construction of a 33-space outpatient treatment facility in the county’s Watsonville Health Center. The new facility will allow an additional 8,000 clinic visits each year, according to county health ofﬁcials. Funding will also help create a Nurse Family Partnership designed to serve ﬁrst-time, low-income mothers.
The County of Santa Cruz is just one of several recipients in the Central California region being awarded a sum total of $20 million in grants from The Central California Alliance for Health. A member of MBEP, the locally governed non-proﬁt health plan serves more than 350,000 members in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Merced Subscribe counties. Share Past Issues provider capacity” and “enable our health plan Translate The goal is to “increase members to receive the broad scope of services they need to heal and remain healthy,” Central California Alliance for Health CEO Alan McKay told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. News and photo courtesy of Santa Cruz Sentinel. Pictured, Watsonville Health Center/photo by Dan Coyro.
FedEx Ground Project Opens Doors to Future Developments The opening of the new FedEx Ground shipping facility off Highway 1 this month is being celebrated as a boost to the local economy and the beginning of bigger opportunities for Watsonville's future. The 194,000-square-foot regional distribution center replaces a previous FedEx building on Technology Drive and serves as the anchor to the Manabe-Ow Business Park, a 95-acre site near Ohlone Parkway. While construction took just under a year, the shipping ﬁrm's opening in its new location marks the culmination of a much longer journey by Ow Family Properties, which has spent more than a decade working to build consensus on a major business park project that could someday contain 1 million square feet of light industrial and ofﬁce space, along with retail sites and workforce residential housing. An adjacent 27.5-acre parcel is already being developed for future tenants, and the roads and other infrastructure required for the FedEx build-out set the stage for additional tenants to begin development within the business park. The Ow family has a long history of investing in Watsonville. Past and present projects include the Fox Shox building at 130 Hangar Way; Driscoll's expansion site at 300 Westridge Drive previously occupied by Happy Tours; FedEx Ground's previous 62,000-square-foot site at 165 Technology Drive; and 555 Main St. Ow Family Properties Chairman and CEO George Ow, Jr. serves on MBEP's Board of Directors. Read more News and photo courtesy of the Register-Pajaronian and KION. Photo by Tarmo Hannula.
Digital NEST: Creating Tech Space and Jobs of Tomorrow For the past several years, Digital NEST has been quietly opening doors for young people around Watsonville, providing them high-tech access and leveling the digital
playing ﬁeld. It's done so by creating a safe place where youth ages 12-24 can go, whether they just need computer access, want to learn to code or create Web pages Subscribe Share Past Issues or advance their technical skills through Translate online tech training classes. As a partner in MBEP's Tech Ecosystem initiative supporting the growth of a sustainable tech scene in the Monterey Bay, its efforts are making a difference: With a registered membership of 900 youth, Digital NEST sees between 4050 members on a daily basis. While there, they learn valuable workforce skills that prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. Claudia Ramirez is one of those who beneﬁtted. The daughter of a hard-working ﬁeld worker, Ramirez was a motivated student but found herself without guidance or resources when she ﬁnished high school. After taking classes at Cabrillo College and graduating from UC Berkeley, she returned to Watsonville. Hoping to ﬁnd a job to save up for law school. But Ramirez said she just couldn't ﬁnd a job. “In school at Berkeley, I learned how technology is changing our world, creating broad shifts in our culture. I wanted to be part of that shift, but the technology intimidated me," said Ramirez. "At the Digital NEST, I found a support system and the network that I needed to feel conﬁdent with my skills." Encouraged by founder and executive director Jacob Martinez, Ramirez applied for a job at RVS Technology Group in Watsonville, which hired her. In all, six members have landed jobs in tech or techrelated ﬁelds, including one who now works for Facebook. Several others are in paid internships, and more on the way. And later this fall, Digital NEST will mark a major milestone with the launch of bizNEST, a youth-led tech consulting arm. It's the realization of one of the last pieces of the innovative NEST model, says Bixby. "We have a great, safe space for positive youth development, we have amazing youth leadership and we have a terriﬁc program staff creating great training programs. With bizNEST, we will be able to employ our talented members to do work for paying clients, putting money in their pockets or improving their family's ﬁnances while they gain the on-the-job experience necessary to out-compete any of their peers for career-track jobs." It's a win-win for Watsonville, helping young NEST members and their families while helping promote local businesses with websites and videos to increase their marketing reach. That, in turn, helps the city prosper through increased taxes and increased economic opportunities. "Ultimately, that's the mission of the NEST," says Bixby. "That's the economic revolution that we're pushing for, and the chance for our members to not only beneﬁt from that revolution, but to lead it, using the new knowledge and skills we're helping them acquire."
Photo courtesy of Digital NEST. Pictured, Digital NEST success story Claudia Ramirez, who now works in a tech-related job in Watsonville.
GET INVOLVED: WHAT'S HAPPENING Second Annual Western Growers AgTech Innovation Arena Competition application deadline. 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29. Details "A Conversation with Pascal Finette," 67:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, CSUMB University Center Rooms. Entrepreneurship Chair and Global Evangelist for Singularity University's SU Labs, Finette speaks and writes about the magic which happens at the intersection of entrepreneurship, technology and global impact. Presented by iiED & Startup Grind. Details Women's Education & Leadership Institute Forum, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, Tehama Golf Club. Wine reception, dinner and panel discussion featuring Lorri Koster, CEO of Mann Packing, and Devry Boughner Vorwerk, senior policy advisor at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP. Tickets are $125 and support WELI's scholarship support, leadership training and mentorship to women. RSVP Fifth Annual Watsonville Film Festival, Sept. 29-Oct. 2 at the historic Fox Theater in Watsonville. Details Hartnell College STEM Center and Sculpture Dedication Grand Opening Celebration, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Sept. 30, 411 Central Ave., Salinas. See hartnellfoundation.org for details. RSVP Santa Cruz New Tech MeetUp, 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, Cruzio & Ecology Action Green Building, Santa Cruz. RSVP Save the Date: Monterey Bay Economic Partnership 2016 State of the Region. Thursday, Dec. 1, Embassy Suites in Seaside. Tickets are on sale now. RSVP Save the Date: The 2016 California Economic Summit will take place in Sacramento on Dec. 13-14, marking the ﬁfth annual gathering of private, public and civic leaders from across California's diverse regions. Find out more at CAeconomy.org.
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