Quick Take:

In her weekly roundup of news and notes from the Santa Cruz County business community, Jessica M. Pasko talks to agricultural commissioner David Sanford, updates downtown planning in Watsonville and Santa Cruz and checks in on local comings and goings.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and its lingering effects on economies everywhere, we’ll be taking a closer look at the movers and shakers, the growth of industries, and what’s really driving the Santa Cruz County economy. I’ll be spotlighting some of the biggest areas for opportunity, updates on local development and all things underpinning the regional business scene, each Wednesday.

Got ideas? Send them my way to news@lookoutlocal.com with “Business news” in the subject line.

Santa Cruz County’s recently released crop report found that the industry made gains almost across the board in 2022, for a total gross production value of almost $667 million. The agricultural industry also contributes an estimated 17,500 jobs to the local economy when you include production, processing and support activities.

The past few years have dealt blow after blow to our local agricultural community, from the impacts of COVID-19 to wildfires, rising temperatures and, of course, the storms this past winter that hit the area hard, leading to flooding, erosion and delayed crops. That’s on top of the numerous other challenges related to availability and cost of labor, inflation and much more.

Santa Cruz County Agricultural Commissioner David Sanford has been in the top spot at the agency since June, after serving as the deputy commissioner since 2016. He moved up after Juan Hidalgo left to become Monterey County’s agricultural commissioner. I recently spoke with Sanford to get a better idea of his agency’s priorities, his understanding of the challenges locally and where he sees things going next.

Read my full interview with Sanford here.

ICYMI: Watsonville city council passes plan for downtown’s future

scenes from downtown Watsonville
Downtown Watsonville. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Watsonville city leaders voted unanimously last week to move forward with the vision for the city’s downtown region. (I reported on this in a previous roundup.) The plan paves the way for more development along downtown corridors, from residential and office to retail and restaurants. Christopher Neeley reported on the plan’s passage last week. Among other aspects, the plan could potentially allow for up to six-story buildings to enter the neighborhood. It also calls for a reduction of traffic lanes on Main Street from four to two, part of efforts to create an environment that’s friendlier to bikes and pedestrians.

Christopher also took a deeper look at how Watsonville’s next steps parallel efforts being made in Santa Cruz to transform the city’s downtown area here.

Ch-ch-changes: Openings, closings and other developments

The restaurant Casa Nostra among the redwoods.

  • New wine bar opening in Scotts Valley: The Saison Cellar & Wine Bar will host its grand opening in the Kings Village Shopping Center on Wednesday, Oct. 26. (Lookout’s Lily Belli has more details here, and she and wine correspondent Laurie Love will have more on the new spot soon.)
  • New CEO at Parallel Flight Technologies: The La Selva Beach-headquartered company, which works with unmanned aerial vehicle technology, has named Craig Stevens as its new leader.
  • Michaels coming to Capitola: A Michaels arts and crafts store will be moving into the old Bed, Bath & Beyond Spot in Brown Ranch Marketplace on Clares Street in Capitola. A spokeswoman for the company says the store plans to open in January.
  • Santa Cruz County Bank leaders recognized by American Banker Magazine: CEO and President Krista Snelling was named one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking and Finance for 2023. Snelling, along with Chief Financial Officer Cecilia Situ, Chief Marketing Officer Mary Anne Carson and Chief Operations Officer Shamara van de Voort also received the publication’s Women in Banking Top Teams Award.
  • Casa Nostra closing Ben Lomond location: The restaurant, which struggled after this past winter’s storms, is closing its doors as of Sunday, according to the company’s Facebook page. New owners will be taking over the space with a new name and concept. Casa Nostra’s Scotts Valley location will remain open.
  • Balefire Brewing takes over former Greater Purpose space: A new brewery has taken over the spot in the East Cliff Village shopping center in Live Oak after Greater Purpose Brewing closed this summer. Balefire Brewing held a grand opening on Saturday. The new spot specializes in American and English-style ales.

Got hires, promotions or departures to report? Send them to news@lookoutlocal.com with the subject line “Career changes.”

Save the date

  • Wednesday, Nov. 1: Vita Collective, the Closet Shopper and Live Happier Wellness will host a mixer with other local business owners from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at The Closet Shopper at 1202 41st Ave. in Capitola.

Add your business or networking events to Lookout’s free public calendar, BOLO. Click here to add your event.

Business news worth reading

A Tesla electric vehicle in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
A Tesla electric vehicle in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

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Jessica M. Pasko has been writing professionally for almost two decades.She cut her teeth in journalism as a reporter for the Associated Press in her native Albany, NY, where she covered everything from...