VISTA — The Vista City Council approved its Vista Economic Development Strategy during its Feb. 23 meeting to provide a roadmap for both short- and long-term growth.
The five-year plan includes 73 specific action items, while the VEDS is incorporating the COVID-19 pandemic and outlines the city’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) as a result of the pandemic, according to Kevin Ham, the city’s economic development director.
The VEDS was compiled from April 2020 through this month and includes working concurrently with the city’s Business Economic Recovery Plan, plus including analyses for target industries and real estate.
“The pandemic brought to the surface a number of issues that will have potential long-term impacts,” said consultant Roger Gale, who help develop the plan. “This plan is not a short-term recovery plan, but we did interface with that. We’re looking at a document that has a shelf life of roughly five years.”
The Vista Economic Development Strategy was first developed in 2009 as a roadmap for creating quality economic growth in the city.
The city identified the top eight industries for growth, which includes quality of jobs. Some of those include biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, information technology, aerospace/defense, e-commerce, food and beverage, education and entertainment. The VEDS committee initially identified 15 sectors, but Gale said those seven not on the list may be prioritized as the economic situation changes.
Councilman Joe Green also acknowledged the Open Source Maker Lab, which is a maker space, incubator and co-working research and development facility. Ham said OSML works with any business ranging from the food industry to aeronautical companies.
“From a funding standpoint, I want to make sure that the funding is going locally,” Green said. “I want to make sure our money is being used in the most effective way possible.”
As for weaknesses, the staff report identifies an oversupply of lower-class office spaces (both Class B & C), but a shortage of higher quality (Class A) space. The pandemic is likely to exacerbate the oversupply of B and C space, although it creates opportunities to transition to other land uses.
Parking downtown is another obstacle, while 53% of the city’s housing was built from 1970 to 1989, which presents another challenge with the quality of housing. Also, education can “do better” from economic development and educational perspectives.
The opportunities identified include the former National University campus, leveraging downtown’s attractiveness, capacity for economic growth, tech, creative zoning to convert older areas into more productive uses and capitalizing on Opportunity Zones.
“The plan takes into account the strengths we have … and better position our residents to take advantage of opportunities that are unfolding and will be unfolding on the horizon,” Councilwoman Corinna Contreras said.
The threats, meanwhile, include the loss of light manufacturing and tech due to the high cost of doing business in California. Those businesses move out of state and the city should look at the “external threat” to the existing business base.
Nurturing entrepreneurship through diversity will help boost the business community. Retail is another area the city can capitalize on as the potential shift in focus to outdoor spaces and malls, along with enhancing the “experience.”
Also, homelessness in downtown is another issue and without a response is likely to grow.
Gale said the city must also coordinate its Capital Improvement Program with the VEDS to bolster infrastructure concurrently with the economic push.
“Prioritize infrastructure improvements, for exampling things dealing with technology, internet capacity and broadband service,” Gale said. “Prioritize those in the CIP were necessary so you’re VEDS is supported by the best possible infrastructure.”