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BEAR DOWN, ALL TOGETHER NOW

patti-smith-briefBear Down

Even after four decades in music, Patti Smith hasn’t lost her flair for delivering the unexpected, as she demonstrated at her Rio show last week. In the mid-’70s, it was seguing from “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine” into “Gloria,” or from Patty Hearst’s story into “Hey Joe”; in the 21st century, she’s been known to let the typical rock star banter about life on tour melt into the hallucinatory psychedelics of “Purple Haze,” and the opening guitar strum of “My Blakean Year” turn into a meditation on … armored police vehicles? Sort of, yeah! At her Rio show, as guitarist Lenny Kaye played the latter, she freestyled some very funny lyrics about her day on the beach in Santa Cruz, during which she sang that this is “such a wonderful place—not a place for an armored BearCat.” Her improv protest drew cheers, as if to say “The SCPD better apply water to that BearCat, ’cause it just got a sick burn!” SP

All Together Now

A recent summit shed light on the economies of the Monterey Bay—what they have in common and what they can learn from one another. The theme of the first Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) regional summit on Jan. 29: “Invent your future here.”

To foster a growing tech ecosystem like Santa Cruz’s, it can help to reach out to political leaders, create meet-up events and strengthen the ties between educational institutions and the local business community.

These are all things Bob Cagle of Santa Cruz-based ProductOps stressed when he led a panel at the Seaside event about Santa Cruz’s emerging tech community, which has many components that Monterey and San Benito entrepreneurs hope to emulate.

An economic driver that all three of the bay’s counties share is agriculture. With increasing shortages in both labor and rainfall, local ag has the most to gain from cutting-edge technologies, like data analytics and drones, explained Robert Tse, a specialist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Technology is going to enable us to double the food production, reduce our environmental footprint, and to deal with the drought,” said Tse.

Tse also said the new technologies are useless without broadband infrastructure on the farming fields themselves. Santa Cruz County is ahead of its neighbors to the south in terms of developed broadband infrastructure, but there is still more work to be done across the region.

Steve Blum, president of Tellus Ventures Associates, said the broadband infrastructure in this area is below average in California, and, in most cases, doesn’t even meet the minimum requirements set by the California Public Utilities Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission.

Bud Colligan, MBEP co-chairman and CEO of South Swell Ventures, said that growing the fields of science and technology will benefit every sector.

“The Internet of things is coming whether we like it or not, and we can either be crushed by this wave or ride the wave,” said Colligan. “Every industry depends on it, whether it is agriculture, recreation, marine sciences, or nonprofits.”

A panel led by Sarah Wood, editor and publisher of Edible Monterey Bay, discussed innovative food businesses in the region, like Farmhouse Culture, whose company’s founder, Kathryn Lukas, hopes to take the Monterey Bay national. “Made in Monterey Bay is a brand that we are going to be working on developing, and I hope that others in the community will help with furthering that,” said Lukas.

Chris Thornberg of Beacon Economics presented a big-picture analysis of the national and regional economies. He said the tri-county region is steadily improving from the recession, but is growing at a rate slower than other areas of California. Real improvements, after all, are about more than just jobs.

“Economic development is not just about overall growth,” says Thornberg. “It has a lot to do with the quality of life as well, and on that basis things certainly have been getting better.” AS

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