Remember, Locals First

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Even though the future of many Santa Barbara businesses hangs in the balance due to the pandemic, we have a greater opportunity for recovery than most cities across America.

Our geographic location and mild year round climate automatically provides the backdrop for our businesses and residents to get the ball rolling. It’s important once we reopen that we understand how critical supporting local shops and restaurants will be toward our overall recovery.

I suggest that Santa Barbara’s new economic development manager, Jason Harris, engineer a “Back to Work Santa Barbara” theme and campaign to help jumpstart our local economy.

We already know that local businesses will be restricted in how they can operate, and we’ll know very soon how this initial phase will impact the hopes for any economic sustainability — especially for our mom-and-pop outlets that have always been the true identity of our local economy. I firmly believe if we do not establish a comprehensive plan and strategy for our small local businesses, that part of our legacy and charm will fade away forever.

State Street was sustained by mom-and-pop shops for many decades and long before banks, real estate developers, and government jumped in bed together to galvanize “paradise” in the mid 1980s. Well now the tables have turned, and we can all admit that prior to the pandemic the goose on State Street was already cooked.

Reopening our local economy presents a great opportunity for our local businesses. We know it’s not going to be easy and that casualties are imminent. But if we employ a locals-first mentality and get our business community up and running, I believe our overall hospitality and tourism industries will eventually butter our bread once again.

Any old timer, such as myself, will tell you that our local businesses built the fabric of our local flavor and identity, which is the primary reason why we attracted visitors from all over the world. Our namesake alone plays to our advantage. Let’s not abuse it or waste an opportunity to restore our town’s economy by forgetting about the businesses and the people who built it in the first place. Let’s get back to work, Santa Barbara.

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