REACH Central Coast says offshore wind and space are the industries to watch in 2023
As the year comes to an end, the Central Coast's Regional Economic Action Coalition (REACH) has released a new study predicting economic growth on the Central Coast next year.
The study said Morro Bay’s offshore wind projects and Vandenberg Space Force Base are big opportunities for the region and the state to achieve its climate and job goals.
Joshua Boswell is the REACH's Vice President of Policy and Economic Development.
“We know from a geographic perspective we have two unique opportunities that other communities just don't have,” Boswell said.
“This study was really looking at what we can potentially do and think about as a community to actually seize those opportunities and create the jobs that could come with them.”
Earlier this year the federal government set a goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030. With Morro Bay planned as the biggest wind project on the West Coast, Boswell said it's a critical moment for the region.
“I think it's an exciting time for the Central Coast to really figure out what role we want to play in these broader state and national efforts, and this study is kind of a first step and helping to start that conversation,” Boswell said.
One of REACH’s previous studies found that development off Morro Bay’s coast could create nearly 700 long term jobs, and about 2,500 construction jobs in the short term.
He said a range of infrastructure has been identified as needed for Morro Bay’s wind energy development, from small boat docks to a large establishments where the wind turbines could be assembled.
For a smaller facility, the expected range of cost is $11-40 million. For a larger facility, the investment could reach $1 billion.
The Vandenberg Space Force Base could also bring new jobs to the area in 2023 and beyond. Boswell said to do that, it will need to heavily update its boat dock to be able to receive rockets or parts that are too large for land and air transportation.
“From a space perspective, we've identified the opportunity for a couple of thousand jobs for the coming years just in and around the Vandenberg area, but again, you have to invest in the infrastructure to actually enable those opportunities to happen,” Boswell said.
He said there are two scenarios for the Vandenberg boat dock.
REACH described the first scenario as modest updates to improve reliability, and described the second scenario as substantial updates which would allow for reusable rockets to be returned. The study estimates this could cost several hundred million dollars.
The study was funded by SLO County, Santa Barbara County and the City of Morro Bay. You can read it online at reachcentralcoast.org.