In 2004, the City of Watsonville was faced with a diminishing supply of vacant developable land (less than 2 percent of the total land area). Potential business expansion was further hindered by concerns about the quality of the available workforce, ranging from educational attainment to English language competency. The high cost of housing, local wage rates, lack of employee advancement, and the City’s poor fiscal health intensified the community’s economic challenges.
The City of Watsonville engaged TIP Strategies as part of a team led by Fregonese Calthorpe Associates (now Fregonese Associates) to update the economic element of the city’s General Plan. The purpose of the economic element was to provide the city with a framework for economic growth and an implementation plan. TIP focused on Watsonville’s strengths and weaknesses in the context of the Pajaro Valley, as well as the larger regional economy. The consulting team used scenario modeling to help understand the impact of potential development trends in the city. Three employment scenarios emerged: 1) The community retains its current strengths in agriculture and manufacturing; 2) Watsonville’s growth mirrors that of a bedroom community; and 3) employment gains in education, R&D, and technology reshape the city as a thriving employment center. As a result of the assessment and modeling process, TIP recommended that Watsonville focus on infill and redevelopment opportunities, particularly in the central business district and along Freedom Boulevard; conduct an internal and external marketing campaign; and develop the Manabe-Burgstrom (now Manabe-Ow) industrial property as a mixed use, signature project. The City accepted the recommendations in 2005 and have since annexed Manabe-Burgstrom, prepared an area plan, and developed the industrial property.