Located on the Central Coast of California, the City of San Luis Obispo (City) functions as one of the region’s economic centers. It boasts a blend of industries, a strong visitor economy, a vibrant downtown, proximity to outdoor recreation amenities, and the presence of California Polytechnic State University and Cuesta College. While San Luis Obispo has enjoyed a period of sustained growth, it contends with evolving priorities (e.g., diversity, equity, inclusion), systemic barriers (e.g., affordable housing), macro-level concerns (e.g., climate change), and national and global economic trends (e.g., interest rates, inflation, consumer confidence). City leaders recognized the need for a proactive and strategic approach to address these challenges and ensure continued economic growth.
In 2022, the City engaged TIP Strategies (TIP) to update its economic development strategic plan. The planning process included an interactive economic analysis data visualization that was supplemented by robust resident engagement which consisted of interviews, focus groups, and a community survey that garnered nearly 1,000 responses. TIP also assessed the City’s current economic development efforts, prioritized potential catalyst projects, and conducted a review of national best practices. Five guiding principles emerged as a result: 1) maintaining a dynamic economic and business environment, 2) expanding economic opportunities for all resident and businesses, 3) ensuring economic vitality through climate- and system-focused sustainable growth, 4) enhancing internal and external collaboration, and 5) expanding partnerships across the region. The draft plan was posted for review and comment, and the City hosted a virtual “First Look” session that was open to all members of the community. The final plan was supplemented by a detailed implementation matrix to guide San Luis Obispo’s economic development efforts over the next five years. To ensure ongoing alignment, TIP also provided the City’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion a memorandum that included a list of potential actions for reference throughout the office’s strategy development.