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Buzzing Calaveras County Economic Development Efforts Prepare To Hone In

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San Andreas, CA – Described as a team player with perhaps too much ground to cover, Calaveras County’s head of community and economic development shared her efforts to date.

Hired just over a year and a half ago to fill what was then a new position, as reported here back in December, Kathy Gallino outlined an impressive range of areas she was actively focusing on. Among them was creating business opportunities for existing and new endeavors, strengthening community partnerships, expanding workforce housing, training, and broadband connectivity.

Her update to the board of supervisors, which came at this week’s meeting, showed progress in these and other areas. While it earned kudos from the supervisors and members of the audience who stood up to publicly comment afterward, it also demonstrated how a one-person department cannot exhaustively work to field such a wide range of areas and have the ability to focus on delivering a series of solid, game-changing home runs for the county.

Reporting a “very exciting last two quarters,” Gallino shared with the supervisors that a new focus area would be working with recently hired CAO Al Alt to develop a strategic plan working forward and supporting his office.

She still described her mission as attracting, retaining and growing a diverse array of businesses by direct one-on-one assistance, streamlining permitting and other processes for them, while preserving the rural character and enhancing the county’s vitality and quality of life.

Gallino maintained that top business priorities and concerns are having a sufficient workforce and housing. Along with working to improve both, she confided two developers, one in Copperopolis and one in Valley Springs, were considering adding affordable housing elements to proposed projects. Regarding increasing new and expanding business opportunities, she emphasized a need for continuing to identify and develop incentives along with access to capital and other resources; all with a bottom-line goal to increase county revenues and promote good-paying jobs.

A County Of Great Collaborators

“In my 18 months here we have made some great partnerships…we have great agencies and departments to work with,” she noted, acknowledging several changes in key government and local agency positions. “We have a really good group of people that can move the needle for Calaveras County. We work very collaboratively — and it is a really great place to be, work and live.”

Among the metrics she shared about her work over the past two quarters, Gallino reported assisting 55 new, 17 existing and 12 expanding businesses, which she said was a 24 percent over her efforts last year. Through agritourism workshop activities she says she identified 38 local farmers and ranchers who want to explore expanding their businesses to include those elements. She also counted three outreach and education events, estimating a reach to about 1,600 people, and corporate outreach outside the county to eight companies and two manufacturers.

Following the presentation, Board Chair and District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi recounted, “One of my concerns, when we started this position, is we did not have an economic development plan in place, and as a result, you are doing everything for everyone.”

Gallino replied that she has developed a rough sketch, was looking at other plans, and also beginning to work with the CAO to create a plan that would address accountabilities and finances. Alt, who called Gallino’s presentation a catalog with activities all over the board, credited her with being a great team player who, without much direction or leadership from two or three previous CAOs, filled a lot of voids.

Working with the current board and his office, Alt outlined that focus would include shifting to identify and focus on two or three high-level areas that would bring the biggest bang for the buck, such as residential development and land use. Due to an incoming $400,000 recreational grant, another area might well be parks and quality of life.

Commending Gallino once more for her work, Garamendi told her that good direction would be forthcoming, adding, “We’ll do our job and make your job more successful.”