First in a series
By TOM HONIG
At a Chamber of Commerce meeting this week, an old statistic came rising out of the data pile -- still as shocking as the day it was reported several months ago: some 85 percent of potential retail dollars are being spent outside of Santa Cruz.
There are a hundred reasons for that kind of "leakage," as it's called by those in business. You can point to social problems or customer-unfriendly parking or even a lack of national retailers. But the biggest -- and maybe the most difficult to solve -- is that so many Santa Cruz residents driver elsewhere for their jobs. In other words, if you're working in Silicon Valley and you need a shirt or some shoes, you're going to buy them over there. You're not going to drive all the way back to Santa Cruz and then go shopping. Besides, the stores here will probably be closed.
Boy is that a problem with a long-term solution. Obviously, the Santa Cruz economy would have to totally change into one that offered higher wages here so that people don't leave town to shop.
At the same time, there's an additional problem -- the big companies that are here have to look elsewhere for qualified employees. In private conversations with local officials right after the chamber meeting, I learned that some of the biggest local employers -- like Plantronics -- are having trouble finding qualified employees.
And yet, earlier this week, at a community meeting of the Regional Occupational Program of the County Office of Education, officials brought up Santa Cruz County's 12 percent unemployment rate.
Obviously, there's a gap here somewhere. All signs point to education.
What's being done locally? More than you might think.
NEXT: New ideas in education.