Unconventional Mayor Is Thinking Big

Ventura's Bill Fulton is hardly your run-of the-mill mid-sized city mayor. So, no surprise that in the middle of California's biggest downturn, he's thinking in unconventional and unpredictably optimistic terms.

A nationally recognized scholar, Fulton is the author of several books on urban planning. A city council member since 2003, the newly appointed mayor's relatively rosy outlook is buoyed by Ventura's low foreclosure rates and a high percentage of government jobs.

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Fulton lauds the city's deliberate policy of moderating real estate growth during the boom years, a measure that kept scads of houses from being built and peddled irresponsibly with sub-prime mortgages. In addition, the city has banked upon its large and fairly secure job base of government employment. As the county seat, neighbor to an enormous naval base, and hub to many Ventura County and Santa Barbara residents, Ventura only felt a slight tremor from what could have been a catastrophic economic shaker, says Fulton. Ventura is hardly an economic oasis. But neither is it the smoking crater that so many other California cities have become.

Even with a considerably stable economy, Ventura adopted $11 million in budget cuts for 2009/2010 and has no planned growth in terms of industry or business. "We're in the process of reinventing ourselves economically," says Fulton, who has lived in Ventura for nearly 25 years. He's also counting on his decades of research in urban planning to help transform Ventura into a prosperous and stable city.

Mayor Fulton points to the Ventura Ventures Technology Center as a driving force in the city's economic make-over. This high-tech incubator opened a year ago as a result of local government's interest and investment. The purpose of VVTC is to foster what it calls "a creative environment where high-tech companies and entrepreneurs can network with each other, brainstorm their ideas and grow their business."

Located just behind city hall in downtown Ventura, the facility boasts ample office space, standard office amenities, and affordable rental rates ($200-$300 a month per workstation).

VVTC is just one effort by the city and its new mayor to attract high-tech entrepreneurs to Ventura. Fulton is confident the incubator—along with the city's first venture capital firm, BuenaVentura Fund—will continue to attract high-tech and bio-tech start-up companies resulting in significant economic growth.

In this video from our interview, Fulton envisions a city of the future while weathering the storm of the present.

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Great story. Ventura is an awesome city with great potential. I love it up there and would LOVE to work and surf at lunch. I just need to learn how to surf first.

Great story. Ventura is an awesome city with great potential. I love it up there and would LOVE to work and surf at lunch. I just need to learn how to surf first.

Great job! I worked for the City of Ventura for 6 years. It came a very long way even in the time I was there. It's a hidden jewel. It will only get better. And I DID surf at lunch and boy was it great!

Great job! I worked for the City of Ventura for 6 years. It came a very long way even in the time I was there. It's a hidden jewel. It will only get better. And I DID surf at lunch and boy was it great!