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 with “Business news” in the subject line.

New Visit Santa Cruz County CEO looks at future of local tourism

Tourism is one of the biggest industries in Santa Cruz County, accounting for around 9,400 jobs in 2022. Visitors spent $1.6 billion here last year, including accommodations, retail sales and food service. It’s a sector that was hit hard nationally by the pandemic and its related closures and travel restrictions. But as economic recovery continues, Visit Santa Cruz County has a renewed focus and a new CEO at the helm. And he’s bullish about the future of the local tourism industry.

“I think the sense is that the travel industry is on the verge of coming back to where it was in 2019,” said Terence Concannon. “There is a sense of optimism.”

In August, Concannon took the top position at VSCC, a private, nonprofit corporation focused on enhancing tourism and the local economy by attracting visitors here. But Concannon, who came from a similar position in Lake Havasu City in Arizona, is also a strong believer in the organization’s role as a steward of quality of life. That is, while he remains committed to strengthening our local tourism industry, it’s also important to him to serve the public that lives here.

“Even though it’s our job to manage this destination for the people coming from outside the county to come and spend their money, our No. 1 customer at the end of the day is the residents and business owners of this county,” he said.

As a longtime fan of Santa Cruz, he’s excited to be here and really encourage more people to come see what the area has to offer. Big on his radar is promoting other parts of the county, beyond the cities of Capitola and Santa Cruz. That includes working with leaders in South County to promote the offerings there and help support potential plans for hotel development in Watsonville and surrounding areas. It also includes putting more effort into attracting business travelers and corporate meetings/events.

Also on the organization’s radar? Promoting Santa Cruz County as a destination to more tourists from other regions both domestically and internationally, including expanding efforts to bring in visitors from the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and Canada. The Mexican market is another big one right now, according to Concannon. In fact, it’s now the third-largest international market for the state’s tourism agencies, with growth on the way as more Mexico-U.S. flights are added.

Read my full interview with Terence Concannon here.

ICYMI: Ceil Cirillo’s get-it-done talents, people skills helped form much of post-earthquake Santa Cruz of today

The former director of the redevelopment agency for the city of Santa Cruz took the reins just a couple of months after the Loma Prieta earthquake hit. Ceil Cirillo took on the enormous task of rebuilding the city’s downtown business district after the devastation, and later helped lead the transformation of the defunct Salz Tannery into the Tannery Arts Center.

Ceil Cirillo, longtime City of Santa Cruz redevelopment director

Wallace Baine profiles Cirillo here in the first of his series The Shapers, which will put a spotlight on some of the highly influential and consequential people who’ve made an outside impact on our county. Got a nominee from the business community you believe fits the bill? Send a note to

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

  • Cruz Foam takes home Pentaward prize: The Santa Cruz-based company won a bronze award in the “sustainable design food” category for its Cruz Cool packaging at a recent awards ceremony in London. The Pentawards recognize excellence in design. The full list of winners is here. It’s just the latest accolade for the product, which recently was named to Time’s 200 Best Inventions of 2023 list.
  • City of Scotts Valley hires two new officials: Nelson Alfaro has been named the city’s building official, after serving the same position in San Benito County. The city also hired Bret Swain as public works director. He’s served as a senior engineer with public agencies in East Palo Alto, Moraga and Manteca.
  • Farm Cottage Wines gets Wine Enthusiast nod: Ryan Alfaro’s Trout Gulch Vineyard chardonnay was selected as one of the magazine’s top 100 cellar selections of 2023. Birichino’s 2022 Old Vines Besson Vineyard Grenache also made the cut.
  • Cliff Cafe closing at the end of November: The longtime Pleasure Point breakfast spot will serve its last meals on Nov. 30, after 33 years in business, Lily Belli reports.

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

Looking at the numbers

  • 112: That’s the number of homes sold in Santa Cruz County in October, a 4% increase from the prior month. Max Chun took a deeper dive into the county’s housing market in his piece here.
  • 2.11 million: That’s how many young workers (ages 16-24) there are in California, according to a new study by UCLA’s Labor Center. That number comprises 45% of all state residents within that age bracket and represents 12% of the state’s total working population.

Save the date

  • 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.
  • Thursday, Nov. 16: The Advancing Ideas: AI Meetup takes place from 6 to 8 p.m., with local designer and software engineer Oliver Davies at Idea Fab Labs in Santa Cruz. Details here.
  • Thursday, Nov. 30: Jazzercise Santa Cruz marks its one-year anniversary at its brick-and-mortar studio in the Capitola Mall with a holiday open house from 4 to 7 p.m. More info here.

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Business news worth reading

FOR THE RECORD: This story has been updated to note that a wine from Birichino was also included among Wine Enthusiast’s top 100 cellar selections of 2023.

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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...