Monday, September 16, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 28

Santa Maria Sun / Spotlight

The following article was posted on March 13th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 2 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 2

Spotlight on: The Hourglass Project

Melissa James, CEO


Under the shared belief that the economy's problems are too big for any individual community to solve on its own, a coalition of Central Coast-based business and civic leaders decided to form a collaborative "action tank" to help create high-quality jobs throughout northern Santa Barbara and SLO counties, from Lompoc to San Miguel.

Melissa James was recently appointed to be the collaboration's first CEO.

The board of directors of the Hourglass Project, a nonprofit economic development organization based in northern Santa Barbara and SLO counties, named Melissa James (left) as its first CEO.

"It's time for us to awaken our possibilities and start viewing our challenges as opportunities to think big and leverage our strengths to ensure a vibrant regional economy," James told the Sun.

Named the Hourglass Project to reflect a sense of urgency, James says there's a finite amount of time to implement a stronger economy for Central Coast residents.

"The Hourglass Project is designed to drive economic opportunity and prosperity across the Central Coast region, from Vandenberg to Camp Roberts, a region of nearly half a million people," James explained. "The effort has a year of bottom-up momentum and demand from business and civic leaders across the region who believe now is the time for a new approach."

What personalizes the mission of the Hourglass Project for James is that it's based on the Central Coast, she said. Although she grew up in Sacramento, SLO County was home to James during her college years at Cal Poly and again after taking a job with the SLO Chamber of Commerce, where she developed initiatives related to housing and infrastructure planning.

"I know too many hard-working people on the Central Coast who are struggling to get by, let alone get ahead," James said. "I want to see more people, including my two daughters, have the opportunities to build a life and future here.

"We will be aligning the region under one voice and brand to drive policy solutions and investment at the state and federal levels as well as to attract talent, capital, and new business," she continued.

James' resume carries public policy and strategic communications experience in both the public and private sectors, including the California Senate as capitol director for former Sen. Sam Blakeslee.

As CEO of the Hourglass Project, James plans to put various short and long-term initiatives into place, including a "jobs playbook," which will list the actions required to create new jobs in specific locations across the region, and a comprehensive database to measure the results.

"The playbook will be an inclusive process to set our vision, goals, and targets for the types of opportunities we want to create here," James said. "The database will give us a stronger case on the region's many assets and strengths and help us to make decisions and measure our progress against the data."

For more info on the Hourglass Project, visit


The Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County recently celebrated the induction of 13 new businesses that have achieved Green Business certification. These businesses include Excelta Corp. in Buellton, and Atrium Ventures Unlimited and Cross & Associates in Santa Maria. More info:

• Doc Burnstein's now offers a delivery option from its locations in Santa Maria, Arroyo Grande, and SLO. Visit for the full menu, pricing, and more information.


Calendar Editor Caleb Wiseblood wrote this week's Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, mail, or email at

Weekly Poll
Do you want to see the California Coastal Trail completed in northern Santa Barbara County?

What's that?
It's impossible with Vandenberg and other private land occupying the coastline.
Yes, there's a lack of coastal access in North County.
The trail would help preserve natural resources.

| Poll Results