On May 3, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted to appoint the West Business Development Center (West Center) as the economic development liaison for the county’s fledgling economic development program. Specifically, the motion, which passed unanimously, directs the Executive Office to work with West Center as part of the first phase of their economic development program strategy. The 12-month, $175,000 contract was negotiated in coordination with the ad hoc BoS Economic Development Committee, the County Executive Office and the Department of Planning and Building Services.
West Center was mandated to provide services in three strategic areas: capacity for economic development; recruitment and retention of companies; and workforce development. Under the terms of the contract, West Center will become a business grant clearinghouse, serve as an initial point of contact for businesses looking to set up or expand in Mendocino County, provide information resources on business retention and recruitment, develop an economic development newsletter, and create a business toolkit that will help both county departments and budding businesses with the information needed to start or grow a business in the county.
The need for an agency responsible for economic development was highlighted by the findings of the Mendocino Opportunities for building a Vibrant Economy (MOVE 2030) initiative. The year-long planning process for the MOVE 2030 project was funded by the Federal Economic Development Administration and aimed to lay the foundation for the development of a more resilient economy in Mendocino County. The groundwork for MOVE 2030 was made in 2020 through an extensive stakeholder engagement process that involved community organizations, public, private and not-for-profit strategic partners, industry representatives and advocates public policies. The MOVE 2030 process culminated in the release of the Mendocino County Economic Development Analysis Report, presented to the Board of Overseers at its March 22, 2021 meeting. The report contains five County Action Strategies summarized as follows:
- Strengthen the county’s economic development infrastructure
- Strengthening the environment for small businesses and entrepreneurship
- Build, support and retain a robust and adaptable county workforce
- Addressing Housing Affordability and Barriers to New Developments
- Develop regional broadband access
The economic vitality of Mendocino County was also included as a key pillar of the Mendocino County Strategic Plan 2022, adopted by the BoS on January 23, 2022. The scope of work undertaken by West Center includes key actions that support the implementation of the county’s strategic plan. plan by working with economic development partners to identify areas where the county can support business attraction, development, and expansion and implement policies and practices to facilitate business start-up and expansion.
In the discussion leading up to the BOS vote on May 3, 1st District Supervisor Glenn McGourty offered his full support for this latest economic development measure, saying, “(With) the ties that Mary Anne Petrillo ( Center West) maintains with both the SMEDD as well as with Josh Metz, who has extensive experience in economic development, we are creating our own ecosystem to access many grants in the coming year…. I am convinced that this plan will work. Josh Metz is a Senior Advisor in the Economic Development Services Group for Regional Government Services and will work with West Center to meet the terms of the contract.
Similarly, Supervisor John Haschak (District 3) who also backed the vote 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 that’s critical. We are at a critical moment in economic development. We have to move forward with this.
With support from the Board of Supervisors, West Center will begin the work of identifying and pursuing grant funding opportunities that will continue grassroots economic development efforts in the county. West Center has already begun work under its new contract and will report its findings and progress in monthly reports to the supervisory board.