ARROYO GRANDE — A coalition of elected representatives and community leaders have launched the Central Coast Economic Recovery Initiative (ERI), a community-driven plan for economic recovery and job creation centered around investment in housing, clean energy, and infrastructure.

“With $85 million in federal relief funds coming to SLO County government agencies – and the potential for millions more earmarked for infrastructure improvements – now is the time to work together to identify how we can invest in our community in a fiscally responsible way while also ensuring help goes to those most in need,” according to Jimmy Paulding, Arroyo Grande City Council Member and a principal author of the ERI.

While other vital regional economic efforts are longer term in focus, the ERI is intended to drive immediate decision-making and meaningful action over the next two years. To stimulate economic recovery, the three overarching goals of the ERI are to immediately implement housing affordability strategies and pandemic relief programs, support clean energy infrastructure and resilience programs, and modernize regional transportation, water, and broadband infrastructure.

“The ERI is both a plan and a process,” Paulding said. “In addition to identifying specific project, program, and policy actions, this initiative also provides a process for assessing the feasibility of different concepts and creates a mechanism for ongoing community engagement in economic recovery.

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“Community participation is a key tenet of the ERI. The entire plan is open to feedback from the local community, and anyone who is interested can sign up to help guide the implementation process by joining a community working group or assisting with feasibility analysis by joining a feasibility study team,” Paulding said.

In order to study the feasibility of some of the initiative’s more technical concepts, the ERI has partnered with the Institute for Climate Leadership and Resilience at Cal Poly. Feasibility study teams consisting of faculty, students, and local subject matter experts will analyze ERI objectives and develop high-quality economic, social, and environmental analysis. This analysis, provided at low or no cost to local governments, will allow local decision-makers to make more informed strategic decisions around economic recovery in a streamlined and fiscally responsible manner.

In addition to Paulding, the ERI was authored by SLO County Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg, SLO City Council Member Andy Pease, Central Coast Community Energy Community Advisory Council Member Bruce Severance, SLO Climate Coalition Chair Eric Veium, and community organizer James Sofranko. The initiative has already been endorsed by an array of elected officials, including SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, Grover Beach Mayor Jeff Lee, Morro Bay City Council Member Dawn Addis, Arroyo Grande City Council Member Lan George, SLO City Council Member Erica A. Stewart, Morro Bay City Council Member Red Davis, and Oceano Community Services Director Cynthia Replogle.

“The hope is to have as many elected officials, community leaders, and members of the community on board with this initiative as possible. If we are to create a rapid and equitable post-pandemic recovery, we must bring everyone to the table,” Paulding said.

The ERI’s goals and objectives were developed in alignment with the REACH 2030 Plan and in support of ongoing REACH-led regional collaboration efforts to guide economic recovery and long-term economic growth.

For more about the ERI, visit cceri.org or contact Jimmy Paulding at (805) 391-4960 or economicrecoveryinitiative@gmail.com.