“Economic vitality” is defined as a community’s capacity to be economically competitive, resilient and attractive to private and public enterprise. Communities with economic vitality enable citizens to enjoy the satisfying economic activities (e.g. jobs) and the quality of life that sets the standard for long-term sustainability. They also dynamically embrace change and seize opportunities. They contribute to the economic well-being of their residents. Economically vital communities encourage and recognize innovation, hard work, good character, and community involvement of their citizens and business.
The San Joaquin Valley regions quality of life is provided in great measure by our quality places, the unique communities and beautiful landscapes that provide an incredible range of lifestyle choices for current residents while also drawing in future residents.  Our region’s tremendous quality of life is one of our most important attributes that has created and will sustain our long-term economic vitality.  In economic terms, our quality places are our region’s differentiated product that consistently commands a higher value in the marketplace.  As a region it is necessary for us to collaborate to decide where and how we should develop, and begin to think and act regionally.  Then our region can guide growth and ensure out future livability and economic vitality for generations to come. 
In our global economy, it is our region as a whole that is competing for new growth and better jobs, not the individual communities within our region.  In the evolving global marketplace, regional thinking and actions are necessary in our approaches to economic development, land use and infrastructure planning, creation of a diversified transportation network, conservation of our land and natural resources and support or regional amenities such as airports, agriculture, sports and entertainment, retail, tourism, and cultural activities.
When we consider competing with other regions, states, and countries, we understand that our region must focus on maintaining and enhancing our quality places through comprehensive community development and planning efforts.  In traditional economic development practices of past decades, the emphasis was placed on recruiting new jobs and companies to relocate into a community.  Now the emphasis is shifting to creating highly livable, desirable communities that companies and new job seekers desire to remain in or relocate to.
With the widespread use of technology, high value companies and employees can operate anywhere in the world.  If the San Joaquin Valley is interested in attracting these high value companies and employees, sustainable growth principles must be adhered to and implemented.  The creation of quality communities with sustainable growth will maintain and enhance our region’s economic development efforts and success for many decades to come.
The San Joaquin Valley region’s locations, desirability, and success in economic development will continue to bring in new jobs and people to our region in future years.  This success will only increase the need to guide growth wisely to preserve our region’s quality of life and places.  It is in our region’s best interest to actively pursue the following strategies toward this end:

Support all economic sectors through quality growth

Recognizing that quality growth will ensure that our region supports the retention, expansion and location of employers across many economic sectors, we can move ahead quickly to update our current planning systems and create market incentives that will create growth patterns we desire.  By doing so we will create quality communities that employers will want to do business in and where employees will want to live.  Keeping our region livable and vital will support the following economic clusters that make up our regional economy in the following ways:
  • Corporate headquarters, manufacturing and professional services by ensuring that we have adequately prepared economic development sites and creating a variety of community types and housing options that ensure a range of desirable lifestyle choices for workers.
  • Building/Development/Estate/Finance by creating greater development potential and an increased range of residential, retail, and commercial products in our region’s market, while establishing that building and development encouraged in our region is the same quality growth and sustainable development promoted in this toolkit.
  • Retail/Commercial by creating necessary population density in key locations to support a variety of retail and commercial enterprises in walkable/bikeable settings.


  • Tourism/Recreation/Entertainment by maintaining and enhancing the quality places and venues that visitors and residents seek out and enjoy, whether from a heritage tourism, recreational, or sports/culture/entertainment preference.


  • Agriculture by creating new markets for locally grown produce and alternative fuels, and ensuring that our region’s best farmland and forests remains open for future production.

  • Government by insuring that our local, state and federal funds are used wisely to fund and maintain the infrastructure and services that a growing population and region will require to keep us livable and competitive, while keeping personal and business taxes as low as possible.

Guide growth for economic development readiness and quality of life

Growth evokes many emotions.  Some hear it and focus on the positive effects and the role of growth as the economic engine that drives our communities, i.e. larger tax base, more and better jobs, better roads, etc.  Others hear it and their focus goes to the negative effects, such as rapid conversion of open space to development, traffic, and degraded environmental quality.  The most comprehensive view of growth is one that balances growth with community improvements and economic development readiness.  This is a positive view of developing our communities and region while encouraging and accepting the forecasted growth.

Develop and follow comprehensive community and regional plans to create quality growth and sustainable development

Comprehensive plans are the foundation for successful economic and community development.  Creation of high quality community and regional plans can guide our region’s growth by honoring individual community attributes and desires and insuring effective use of our resources.  Once quality plans are completed and adopted, updates to zoning, subdivision regulations, building codes, and capital budgeting practices will be needed to insure that implementation of comprehensive plans match our region’s vision for the future and that we grow in a quality and sustainable way.

Make possible a range of quality design and development

The San Joaquin Valley has a diverse range of communities and lifestyles with unique attributes and identities.  This diversity is one of our greatest strengths and competitive advantages.  This Toolkit includes strategies and tools that can increase the quality of design and range of development types in the best locations throughout the region.  It is in our best interests to continue the focus on quality design and create the possibility for a broader range of development types if we want to keep and enhance the quality places and lifestyle choices that make our region unique and desirable.

Use our resources wisely

The residents of the San Joaquin Valley are known for their ingenuity, resourcefulness, practicality and their perseverance in honoring our vision and commitments.  We demonstrate these attributes when we undertake comprehensive planning efforts and align our public and private infrastructure spending to determine how our region can grow and still keep our quality of life.  Unplanned growth and dispersed development patterns cost more and cause harm to our region’s identity, land, natural resources, and public coffers.  We can update our planning, zoning, and funding systems to spend our infrastructure dollars wisely and guide growth in more desirable ways.

Work collaboratively to create the region that we all desire

The San Joaquin Valley region has many organizations that can work collaboratively to champion quality growth.  Insert a list of valley specific organizations who are interested in working to sustain quality growth
Throughout this Toolkit, we have discussed our region’s need to put the right development and infrastructure in the right places with the right design and function. By doing this we can keep our region’s quality places and quality of life and ensure our region’s continued economic vitality. In this section we will elaborate on how we can use comprehensive planning and make wise use of our investments to accomplish this important work.

Develop and Follow Comprehensive Plans

A comprehensive plan is a local government’s adopted statement on future development. It sets forth goals; analyzes existing conditions and trends; describes and illustrates a vision for the physical, social, and economic characteristics of the community in the years ahead; and outlines polices and guidelines intended to implement that vision.  Comprehensive plans address a broad range of interrelated topics in a unified way. A comprehensive plan identifies and analyzes the important relationships among the economy, land use, transportation and other infrastructure, community facilities and services, housing, environment, human services, and other community components. It does so on a community-wide basis and in the context of the wider region.  A comprehensive plan addresses the long-range future of a community, using a time horizon of 20 years or more.
The most important function of a comprehensive plan is to provide valuable guidance to those in the public and private sector as decisions are made affecting the future quality of life of existing and future residents and the natural and built environments in which they live, work and play.

  • Elements of effective comprehensive plans

Effective comprehensive plans include the following elements:

§  Land Use

§  Transportation and other Infrastructure

§  Community facilities and public services

§  Open space, parks, recreation, and cultural amenities

§  Housing

§  Employment zones/Job centers

§  Critical and sensitive areas

§  Natural hazards

§  Agricultural lands

§  Priority investment areas

§  Appropriate design criteria

Comprehensive plans should include two “bookend” items:  an issues and opportunities element at the beginning in order to set the stage for the preparation of other elements; and an implementation program at the end that proposes measures, assigns estimated costs, and assigns responsibility for carrying out proposed measures of the plan.

Provide resources to create comprehensive community and regional plans

Developing and implementing comprehensive planning and aligning supporting codes, regulations, and budgets can present a challenge for local governments, which often lack the staff time and funding to approach this process in a systematic manner.  Our region can develop methods to provide additional planning resources to address this need in three basic ways:
  • Develop matching grant programs for comprehensive planning projects that support regional planning priorities
  • Make available planning technical assistance through qualified consultants having the expertise to meet community and regional needs
  • Make available technical assistance staff to provide additional help in comprehensive planning, design, and other technical areas.

Update the rules to allow quality growth and sustainable development

Throughout this toolkit, we discuss ways to facilitate growth and development in a quality way.  In order to use these tools and strategies, we must work together to level the playing field and remove political and regulatory barriers by:
  • Adopting a clear vision and create comprehensive community and regional plans that guide our region’s growth and articulates our vision in policy
  • Educating public agency staff, developers, and the public about successful quality growth methods, programs and projects
  • Updating zoning, subdivision, and building codes to implement community and regional plans
  • Designing a system to produce the design and developments that will create the region that we all desire

Effectively use public and private funding to implement community and regional plans

When all parties know the direction for growth and development and operate in a system that defines development processes and standards, it is possible to maximize local, state and federal grant and loan programs and private expenditures to implement plans and reduce community expenditures.  Some say that sprawl is financially irresponsible.  We know that our region can make good decisions to use our public and private funding wisely to guide growth in a desirable way and create the future region that we all desire.

Use redevelopment incentives to catalyze investment

In some cases, it is less expensive for a developer to construct a project in a Greenfield area rather than to redevelop and existing area.  The cost of renovating or removing site improvements and supporting infrastructure can be a significant deterrent to reinvesting in older, developed portions of a community.  It is sometimes necessary for the community to assist by creating reinvestment incentives and sponsor infrastructure improvements to make these areas more attractive for private investment.  Often times, simply reviewing zoning codes, subdivision regulations, and building codes to ensure that infill development or redevelopment is not more onerous than Greenfield development and can also spur reuse of existing property. 

Encourage regional planning where appropriate

Roads, rivers and tourists don’t stop at county lines and city limits.  Nor do we, most of us live, work, shop and play right here in the San Joaquin Valley.  It is in our best interests to recognize and embrace our interdependency and plan and develop accordingly.  Supporting regional approaches in planning and investing our resources wisely will allow us to move ahead rapidly in quality growth implementation and keep our competitive advantage when competing against other regions and states for new business.

Create mechanisms to continue regional collaboration

As we discussed in the Strategies section of this chapter and in other chapters, our region has an abundance of organizations and resources to accomplish regional quality growth.  When our region commits to use the strategies, tools, and resources provided in this Toolkit, we can move quickly to implement sustainable growth.  We also can collaborate across the region to learn from each other, create additional training and technical assistance resources, and work together to implement best practices and approaches that are already being successfully used throughout the region.
The San Joaquin Valley region has many assets to build upon, including our commitment to preserving our unique communities and beautiful landscapes.  Maintaining and enhancing these assets is critical to our region’s continued livability and economic vitality.  It is up to us to work together to use our expertise and resources wisely to create the future region that we all desire.
A wide variety of resources and programs are available to help the San Joaquin Valley region expand its economic vitality.  The following listing contains relevant programs, resources and contacts for technical assistance, financial tools and specialized expertise available locally, as well as at the state and national level.


§  List here (to be inserted at a later date)