Quick Take:

In her weekly roundup of news and notes from the Santa Cruz County business community, Jessica M. Pasko checks in on the progress of converting pandemic-era parklets to permanent structures in Santa Cruz, state funding for education and workforce opportunities, numbers to know and more.

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 restaurants begin transition to permanent parklet program

Participants in the City of Santa Cruz’s parklet program are now transitioning to their permanent spaces after the city’s temporary permits expired last week.

Restaurants and food businesses that wanted to make permanent the outdoor dining areas that sprang up during the pandemic had to apply by the end of June for a permanent permit. Otherwise, all barriers and parklets set up during COVID were to be removed after Oct. 31.

“We are working with just a few businesses now that are not participating in the permanent program to remove their temporary parklets,” Rebecca Unitt, economic development manager for the City of Santa Cruz, told Lookout. “Most of those not participating have already removed their temporary parklets, but we have a few who have not removed them yet. Our major focus now is continuing to help the businesses who applied for the permanent program to make that transition.”

A total of 19 businesses applied for the permanent program; 10 of those have approved applications and are now in the process of construction, retrofitting or waiting for the materials needed to begin construction. Of those, three are retrofits of temporary parklets, five are using the city’s pre-approved design and two others, Bad Animal and Hula’s Island Grill, are building custom parklets.

“We’re working with the nine other businesses, all of which are using the city’s pre-approved designs to determine the path forward based on some site-specific constraints that impact the design of the parklets,” said Unitt.

At the height of the pandemic, the city had issued just over 100 permits for temporary outdoor dining spaces, including the parklets and those on private property. As of June, there were 28 parklet permits still active.

Meanwhile, the city is also working to help transition outdoor dining spaces on private property from temporary to permanent permit status. Temporary permits are currently set to expire in March, but that deadline could change. The economic development department is still working to finalize a revised process for permanent outdoor dining permits on private property. In a Community Voices opinion piece last month, Economic Development Director Bonnie Lipscomb reiterated the city’s commitment to outdoor dining.

State awards regional org funding for education-to-career pipeline

A coalition aimed at improving education on the Central Coast is among the recipients of a new state grant aimed at providing students with more job and career opportunities in their local communities.

Gov. Gavin Newsom selected the Central Coast K-16 Regional Collaborative as one of four entities that will receive around $18.1 million to help improve access to higher education and workforce opportunities. The grants are part of the state’s ongoing efforts to improve education-to-career pathways.

The Central Coast K-16 Regional Collaborative is focused on Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The coalition is composed of leaders from the region’s community colleges, K-12 schools, state universities and industry partners working together to address educational and economic inequities.

ICYMI: Watsonville Community Hospital survived bankruptcy. Will it survive the next few years?

Watsonville Community Hospital

It’s been just over a year since the Watsonville Community Hospital transitioned to public ownership after facing closure. The hospital is now seen as a model for how to save a distressed hospital, according to state officials.

After community leaders purchased the hospital out of its bankruptcy, the hospital is now expanding services, has a new CEO at the helm, and is making progress. But that doesn’t mean all worries are off the table. Lookout’s Hillary Ojeda took a deeper look at the hospital’s journey from the brink of closure and what the future holds in store. Read her story here.

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

  • November is National Entrepreneurship Month: See President Joe Biden’s proclamation here.
  • Santa Cruz names new city water director: Heidi Luckenbach will take the reins in February, following the retirement of Rosemary Menard. Luckenbach has been with the city for 24 years, and is currently the department’s deputy director and engineering manager.
  • Humble Sea on the wharf closes for the season: Humble Sea Brewing Co.’s popular beer garden on the Santa Cruz Wharf served its last pour last week, but the brewery said it plans to reopen there next spring.

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

Looking at the numbers

  • $3.02 billion: That’s the amount that strawberries contribute to California’s economy annually, making it the state’s third-highest-grossing crop, according to the California Strawberry Commission.
  • $1.1 billion: That’s the third-quarter revenue reported last week by Watsonville-based contractor Granite Construction. It marks an 11% increase from the same time period last year.
  • 12.8%: According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 17 million households — 12.8% of the total population — were food insecure at some point during 2022. Food insecurity is defined as the inability to acquire enough food, or uncertainty of being able to acquire it, due to insufficient money or other resources.

Save the date

  • Thursday, Nov. 9: Landlords can come to learn about all things housing vouchers and more at an event held at the Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building downtown from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Info here.
  • Thursday, Nov. 16: The Slugs in Biotech job fair will help connect UC Santa Cruz undergraduate and graduate students with internship and job opportunities in the biotech industry. The event takes place at the Baskin Engineering building on campus between 12:30 and 4 p.m. More info here.
  • Saturday, April 13, 2024: The next edition of TEDxSantaCruz will take place at the Crocker Theater on the Cabrillo College campus. Organizers are currently seeking speakers, volunteers and sponsors. Anyone who works or lives in Santa Cruz County is eligible to apply. The theme is “Rising Together.” More details here.

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

Business news worth reading

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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...