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Uplift Central Coast awarded $14 million to accelerate local economic and workforce projects across six counties

Announcement of award of $14 million in funding from the State of California Regional Investment Initiative.

Central Coast coalition granted funding from the California Jobs First Regional Investment Initiative

San Luis Obispo County – 13 March 2024 – Uplift Central Coast Coalition (Uplift) is thrilled to announce it has been awarded $14 million from the California Regional Investment Initiative of the California Jobs First program (formerly known as the Community Economic Resilience Fund or CERF). Launched in 2021 by Governor Newsom, this initiative supported the establishment of Uplift, a coalition convened by three economic development agencies: REACH, Economic Development Collaborative (EDC), and Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP). The $14 million in funding, known as the “Catalyst Program,” will bolster Uplift’s ongoing efforts to craft strategic roadmaps and recommend investments for the 6-county Central Coast region.

 Funding supports Uplift’s goals of building an equitable and sustainable economy on the Central Coast as well as fostering economic resilience over the long term. Uplift is one of 13 statewide Jobs First Collaboratives designated by the State with $182 million distributed among the regions to enhance the initial $5 million planning grants awarded in 2022. This $14 million grant will bridge the gap between planning regional economic strategies and implementing projects aimed at achieving aligned outcomes.

“We are eager to build on progress made during the Planning Phase of the Initiative and leverage our collective findings to develop projects in disinvested communities,” remarked Melissa James, President & CEO of REACH. REACH is dedicated to ensuring that Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties provide opportunities for both current and future generations to thrive.

Bruce Stenslie, President & CEO of EDC, emphasized the dual objectives of the Catalyst Program funding: “This funding will not only strengthen our social infrastructure, enabling inclusive planning, but also empower our region to undertake projects that equitably enhance our local economy.” EDC plays a pivotal role in supporting economic vitality across Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles counties through business consulting, funding, and strategic initiatives.

Tahra Goraya, President & CEO of MBEP, highlighted the importance of incorporating diverse perspectives into the vision for the economic future of the Central Coast: “We are excited to continue developing a shared vision that incorporates equity, environmental justice, and public health, while centering our diverse workforce and communities.” MBEP is committed to improving the economic health and quality of life in Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz counties.

Quinn Brady, Project Director of Uplift, added, “We extend our sincere appreciation to community members, committee members, and stakeholders for their collaboration. Your partnership has strengthened our regional collaborative, and we look forward to achieving even more together.”

Through 2023, Uplift conducted extensive research, met with over 1,600 community members in small group sessions and larger gatherings, conducted a public opinion poll with over 1,200 Central Coast residents, and partnered with Community Based Organizations across the region to advance understanding of the challenges faced by Central Coast residents. In January 2024, Uplift released a comprehensive 200-page report based on this research, which informs their transition to strategy development. Their goal now is to identify impactful, equitable ways to improve the local economy and then submit a plan to the State by June 2024.

For further information on Uplift and its convening organizations, please visit the Uplift Central Coast website ( To learn more about the Regional Investment Initiative, read the recent announcement from the State of California.

About Uplift Central Coast Coalition
Uplift Central Coast is a six-county partnership convened by three economic development agencies—the Economic Development Collaborative, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, and REACH—with the shared goal of creating an equitable economic resilience plan through creative and sustainable community-led efforts for residents throughout Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties.


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