By Irwin Speizer
You don’t need a wind turbine to run a vegetable-processing plant. Or a solar panel array to make wine. But you will find both in Gonzales, California, a town that makes a point of promoting sustainable growth in its economic development effort.
Situated in the heart of California’s Salinas Valley agricultural region, Gonzales is proving that even a small city – it has a population of fewer than 10,000 – can make a big difference in the lives of its citizens by being both ecologically aware and business friendly.
The Gonzales move into sustainability practices has become a central part of its economic development effort and is now used by the city as a way to distinguish itself from others competing for new business. The city not only works closely with companies to assist them in relocating or expanding, but it also often partners with those companies on sustainability projects.
“We are about sustainability, using the environment better, saving energy,” says Gonzales City Manager René Mendez. “It provides additional value to companies besides breaks on fees. This is something else we bring to the table.”
The sustainability-fueled economic development methods employed by Gonzales appear to be working. The city saw its property tax base grow by 16.65 percent from 2014 to 2015, double that of the next closest municipality in Monterey County. It has done that while simultaneously reducing the city’s carbon footprint thanks to the addition of solar and wind power, creative recycling programs, and other efforts organized under a city initiative called Gonzales Grows Green (G3). The G3 initiative is built around three principles: economic vitality through diversity in growth, environmental responsibility, and social equity.
Among the companies that responded to the Gonzales style of economic development and moved to town:
Gonzales expects to more than double its population to 24,000 by 2035 while sticking to its ecologically sensitive standards. “We are determined to grow responsibly,” Mendez says. “We will be a model of sustainability and provide a good quality of life, beginning with our children who will become our most valuable resource in the future.”
Image courtesy of Blue Sky Cinematography, used with permission
Irwin Speizer is a freelance writer and communication consultant with a specialty in finance. He is a long-time resident of the Monterey Peninsula of California and a former business editor of The Fresno Bee. His writing has been widely published in newspapers, magazines and web sites. Irwin also works as a writer and communications consultant with Armanasco Public Relations in Monterey.