One year ago, we launched Imagine SLO, our first web based economic vision. But Imagine SLO is more than just a vision: over the past year, it has served as the Chamber’s north star, a guiding set of priorities and goals that shape our advocacy. And what better way to celebrate Imagine SLO’s first anniversary than to look back at a few of the ways we are bringing this vision to life? We asked a few community members how they’ve witnessed Imagine SLO steer the community— here’s what they had to share.
Our strong and diverse base of businesses thrive because of the Doers + Dreamers who lead them. But ongoing challenges that our community faces can potentially threaten these risk-takers and the jobs they create. This past year, the Chamber and its partners stepped up to tenaciously advocate for the needs of businesses and their employees. One of those key areas of advocacy was promoting the enhancement and expansion of affordable child care to support working families. By partnering with organizations like First 5, we were able to prioritize the conversation around working parents who lead so many of our key industries here on the Central Coast.
“Our beloved Central Coast depends on the Doers + Dreamers who live, work and raise families here,” said Wendy Wendt, Executive Director of First 5 San Luis Obispo County. “Several Chamber activities in the past year have mobilized a notable groundswell of interest among local business leaders on the topic of affordable child care. These actions included an employee survey and Chamber Business Council discussion on child care needs, an Insight Studio event centered on the topic of Business Solutions to Community Challenges, and participation by multiple Chamber members in the We Are the Care Initiative which seeks cross-sector solutions to the child care challenge in our county.”
But child care affordability isn’t the only roadblock that many businesses and their employees face in our region. For our Doers + Dreamers to thrive in SLO County, being able to afford to rent or buy a home is a pivotal factor in their success. Supporting this Love of Place and quality of life that makes our businesses stronger means the creation of more housing of all kinds.
“The local health services industry generally recruits highly skilled, technically educated professionals into head of household jobs,” said Ron Yukelson, Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at Wilshire Health and Community Services. “It is critically important for our industry to have plentiful options in a variety of price ranges because housing costs—whether it be rent or ownership— is the single most cited reason for local health care workers leaving the area within the first two years of employment.”
While housing is a challenge that our county is still working through every day, our actions over the last year made significant headway on this issue: we advocated for the creation of more housing of all kinds, prioritizing a diverse mix of size, price and type of home.
“The SLO Chamber and the Coalition of Housing Partners helped our County take an important step towards ensuring an ongoing housing pipeline,” Yukelson said. “The coalition’s work with the County Board of Supervisors led to a commitment of $1 million in funding for annual affordable housing projects. These projects no doubt will increase employee recruitment, retention and satisfaction.”
Bettering the child care and housing options for families and employees in SLO County will no doubt brighten our collective future. But now more than ever, that collective future depends on practices of Environmental Stewardship that will allow for future generations to enjoy the quality of life we strive to not only maintain, but improve every day. This year, we sought to protect the area’s air and water quality, scenic beauty and character, recognizing that they are intrinsic to the region’s appeal to residents and tourists alike.
“The Central Coast Aquarium saw a record-breaking attendance year in 2019, which we believe indicates that people are concerned about the health of our oceans,” said Christine Johnson, Executive Director of Central Coast Aquarium. “One way we can achieve healthier oceans and natural spaces in general is to reject products made with expanded polystyrene. Thanks in part to the bold position taken by the SLO Chamber Board of Directors, countywide policy finally caught up with Environmental Stewardship priorities this past year with the passage of the countywide polystyrene ban.”
From advocating for our Doers + Dreamers, to promoting a Love of Place in our community, to pushing for policies that center Environmental Stewardship and so much more, Imagine SLO guided our every turn over the past year. Happy 1st anniversary, Imagine SLO! We look forward to sharing where this vision takes us next.