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Carpinteria economy hangs tough despite COVID-19 hit in many sectors

CARPINTERIA, Calif. - Despite the economic gut punch COVID-19 has dealt most cities everywhere, Carpinteria is on the recovery.

In the South Coast Chamber of Commerce State of the City address this morning, Mayor Wade Nomura said he saw a strong interest in local residents supporting local businesses during the pandemic. That resulted in many of those businesses staying open.

Nomura said through his role in the Rotary he saw an economic plan in Australia that he encouraged here. "For every dollar spent within a community that dollar would stay in that community for six or seven times,  before it was cycled out of that economy," said Nomura.

The infusion of government financial help also kept the lights on for restaurants and retailers. Nomura said it was "$130,000 that we gave out to local businesses for their efforts in opening back up again."

There were also thousands of dollars in government provided stimulus dollars to help businesses with COVID protections, including signage and customer safety protocols, that would have been an additional cost.

The city has funded many sign campaigns about personal protections while outside. There was also a chalk art program to promote mask wearing.

"This was to make sure that the community people or people that came from outside the community were welcomed in .  We did not want to make Carpinteria look and feel like a ghost town, " said Nomura.  

Rocks with positive messages have been left throughout Carpinteria. Despite the COVID economic hit, the city has a positive roadmap to recovery. (Photo: John Palminteri)

City Manager Dave Durflinger calmly revealed the city has had more expenses than income, but said hiring freezes and a "rainy day fund" of reserves will soften that impact until the recovery fully takes place.

Ahead, Carpinteria says it will remain welcoming to tourism and expect that to bring a rebound to the transient occupancy tax which fell over a million dollars.

Sales tax revenues are also expected to return to a solid level as both local residents and visitors return to pre-pandemic spending levels.

Housing prices in Carpinteria in the last month compared to a year ago went up 37 percent , according to Peter Rupert, director of the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project. He also said the region is benefitting by the financial success of the cannabis industry. "Cannabis is up up $3.4 million than what people thought was going to happen. "

He sees regional success stories too. "I think we just saw the county of Santa Barbara is going to have a budget surplus they didn't know they were going have."

The city is also planning for more racial equity and social justice meetings, and policy reviews to be all inclusive.

The Carpinteria Branch Library will be disconnecting from the larger regional library system this year with a city controlled operation in 2022.

Carpinteria continues to have a strong agricultural base and is influenced by the cannabis growers who are outside of the city limits but have been financially supportive of community programs, non-profits, economic recovery, food drivers, and at-home educational supplies for children.

School Superintendent Diana Rigby said, when COVID hit and students could no longer go to their campuses, the district and community donations helped in many ways. To improve home learning the district purchased, "1000 computers to distribute to students, 100 hot spots for internet connectivity and 600 daily drive by sack lunches ."

She said the support from residents and the locally developed 93013 Fund has been a vital help for students in need.  

City leaders say the advance planning for an economic emergency has put them in the position to have a faster recovery.

In the weeks ahead the South Coast Chamber of Commerce will also have a State of the City address for Goleta and Santa Barbara. In June the State of the County report will be made.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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