ECONOMIC RENAISSANCE OF YOLO COUNTY
By Dave Rosenberg
Yolo County Supervisor, District Four
As we count down to the start of the 21st Century, Yolo County is primed to enter a new era of economic prosperity, a virtual "economic renaissance" of Yolo County.
Last year, as I served as Chairman of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, I proposed that a County Economic Summit be convened, bringing together the best and the brightest in Yolo County to discuss and focus on our economy. The Board of Supervisors unanimously concurred, and the County Economic Summit was held in December at the Agriculture Building in Woodland. Attending were representatives of all our cities (Davis, Woodland, West Sacramento and Winters) as well as representatives of the unincorporated communities, the University of California, agriculture and business.
The Agriculture Building was certainly an appropriate site for the Economic Summit, as any economic development in this County must be driven by the fact that farmland is our heritage and base, and must be protected.
The Economic Summit was a good opportunity to start tearing down those artificial barriers that divide us. Folks in Yolo County are beginning to understand that we cannot preserve agriculture and our quality of life, nor can we compete with Sacramento (to our east) and Solano (to our west) unless we work together. Yolo County is (itself) a region and we must engage in serious regional thinking and planning.
It was a fine summit. One of the main results of the Economic Summit was the proposal to create a Yolo County Economic Development Council ("YCEDC"). I forwarded that very proposal to the Board of Supervisors which, again, unanimously approved the creation of the first YCEDC.
The YCEDC is a broad-based council including an elected official from each of our four cities, economic development coordinators from the County and the cities, representatives from various chambers of commerce and downtown business organizations, representatives from UCD and the three community colleges, a representative of the Port of Sacramento and from the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians, representatives from the business community and from agribusiness. The Board of Supervisors appointed me to the YCEDC and I serve as Chairman.
What can the YCEDC do for our economic prosperity? Plenty. The YCEDC had its first meeting recently, and already the artificial barriers between communities are crumbling. Davis, Woodland, West Sacramento and Winters are beginning to understand that economic development in one community of this County is a benefit to all. the YCEDC will spend its next two meetings with a facilitator in some visioning and goal setting: we need to collectively find common ground and develop an economic agenda for the next two years.
Yolo County recently expanded the duties of and hired a new Economic Development Coordinator. Working with the YCEDC and his counterparts in the public and private sectors, the new Coordinator will help implement the common agenda.
In Yolo County, economic development means jobs and prosperity, and provides a viable source of new tax revenue to operate our local governments. But economic development must be appropriate for rural, slow growth Yolo County. Appropriate urban business must be directed to the already urbanized cities and must be located in zones approved by the public well within those cities. Yolo County should not compete with Yolo County’s cities. We should not become a Sacramento County which is so urbanized that it’s barely possible to tell where Sacramento City and Sacramento County begin and end. We should not tolerate shopping malls in the unincorporated area, competing for sales and property taxes with the cities. Yolo County is committed to the preservation of agriculture as the bedrock of our economic prosperity and as the historical ingredient which forms the special character of this County. Accordingly, the unincorporated areas should only seek agriculturally-based economic developments such as nurseries, vineyards and wineries, ag processing facilities, ag research parks, and the like. Appropriately, ag business should be directed to the County. The cities need to recognize this reality, as well.
As we move into the new Century, the YCEDC will provide an important focal point for our economic prosperity. It’s about time.