ATASCADERO — The Atascadero and Paso Robles Chambers of Commerce teamed up Thursday morning for the fifth annual State of North County event. 

The Chamber event featured speakers from the Economic Vitality Corporation, Dan Baum, Shutterfly’s founder, and community updates from Atascadero Mayor Heather Moreno and Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin.

Newly-elected District 17 State Sen. John Laird opened the event with brief remarks, expressing his excitement in serving SLO County and the rest of his constituents. Laird, who was sworn in on Monday, said he’d began working on getting San Luis Obispo County out of the Southern California Region as it relates to the regional stay-at-home order.

Atascadero Mayor Moreno shared what the City has done during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as what the City plans to do in the future. 

Getting through this together, Atascadero

Atascadero hosted Movies in the Park drive-in style, a virtual Brew at the Zoo, and a Santa’s reindeer pop-up and Trail of Lights for the holidays.

Charles Paddock Zoo has been focusing on a virtual education video series with zoo tours.

Moreno touched on a variety of topics, including the information meetings coming up for measure D-20, the City’s continued work with Bridgeworks, and a focus on improving the connectivity and broadband issues in North County. 

“What is really important for us in the City is to hear from our constituents and our business owners. We are having a series of public meetings that are being scheduled in early 2021,” Moreno said regarding the passing of Measure D-20. 

Atascadero’s 1-cent sales tax increase, Measure D-20, was passed by voters on Nov. 3 and is expected to bolster the City’s fire and police departments. 

Moreno said 2021 was going to be significant for the City as it begins updating the General Plan. The City completed its Housing Element Update.

Following a spirited presentation from Mayor Martin, where he transported the listeners to the “Reimagination Zone” while talking about Paso Robles’ sales tax Measure J-20, Maria Kelly, Interim Executive Director of EVC, and Loreli Cappel, EVC Senior Project Director, gave presentations on the economic state of North County.

The pair said 2020 has been challenging due to COVID-19. Kelly pointed out that before the start of the pandemic, wages had increased from 2019 to 2020 in San Luis Obispo County. 

According to Kelly, in October, SLO County’s economy was in a slight recovery, and unemployment was 6%. 

Cappel highlighted some of the efforts of ECV, including organizing a broadband summit on Feb. 18 and working with SLO Partners on a 10-week virtual digital marketing course. 

Keynote speaker Baum began his presentation with a little background on himself before analyzing a couple of businesses in North County that have successfully pivoted during the pandemic. 

Baum highlighted local restaurant Thomas Hill Organics, which shifted to a stronger online presence and family-style meals to help them navigate the ever-changing business landscape in front of them. 

Monica Gibbs, Area Director of External Affairs at AT&T overseeing SLO, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Kern counties, gave a presentation on workplace diversity.

“I was extremely pleased with the quality of speakers and the content they provided,” Atascadero Chamber Of Commerce CEO Josh Cross said. “Attendees have commented how much they enjoyed learning about what’s happening in the North County and that there is progress on issues of economic development, diversity, and broadband connectivity.

To find more events or to stay connected to the community, visit the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce website at www.atascaderochamber.org.