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Some might call this the most wonderful time of the year. No, it’s not the holidays, but for parents everywhere it may be: It’s back to school time!

In the Lompoc Valley and all over California and the United States, parents, teachers and students alike are preparing themselves for another school year. Parents and teachers are buying reams of paper, No. 2 pencils, crayons, markers, glue sticks, and students are picking out new jeans and backpacks.

The local economy is being pumped with a fraction of the total back-to-school spending that the entire nation is currently engaged in. And Lompoc schools are no exception.

What does this have to do with economic development? Well, simply, school spending pumps money into the economy, teachers are employed and doing superhuman work to ultimately create productive citizens in our community. This is the time of new beginnings, new developments and the opportunity to move forward and grow.

It starts as early as elementary school. A couple of elementary schools in particular are preparing their students to contribute to our community even when the biggest lesson that they will learn is how to read, write, and play fair.

Not content with just reading and writing, teachers at La Honda Elementary School have been working a Science Technology Engineering and Math, or STEAM, Academy. The STEAM Academy provides our youngest Lompoc residents the opportunity to develop the skills that, if honed, will produce mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers that will better our communities.

Meanwhile, at Arthur Hapgood Elementary School, teachers are teaching students to learn in two languages. Students are participating in a Dual Immersion Magnet Program through the Language Academy. Bi-lingual education prepares our young students to be more successful in the future.

Additionally, Lompoc has two middle schools, and each has adjusted with the times to provide students with electives that have an interest in the burgeoning science, tech, and service fields. These electives may not be for jobs just yet, but they will provide students with the guidance to pursue possible interests as career fields.

Students in Lompoc do benefit from these as they progress in our school system. Lompoc and Cabrillo high schools have tracks dedicated to academies. The CASH Academy, the STEAM Academy, ag science, and viticulture are just some of the courses and tracks dedicated to developing student interests and providing them with the skills necessary to become marketable.

Students who take part in Cabrillo High School’s viticulture program learn the science and the process to making wine. Despite the fact that they’re not even old enough to drink it, students participate in one of the Central Coast’s most recognizable industries. They learn their skills at their high schools and can immediately translate them to work in one of many vineyards that pepper the Lompoc Valley. And our schools are directly responsible for creating these high-caliber students.

In short, schools and education are the precursor for economic development in our community and we have our great schools and teachers to thank for that.

The students who take part in our K-12 school system participate in the development of our local economy. They learn skills which will prepare them to contribute to our economy by working, developing, inventing, and yes, spending. We have our teachers to thank for that.

This week, when you are looking to fill your cart with those school supplies which will make your students prepared for that first day of school, you are not just buying tools to get them through homework and tests; you are creating future generations of citizens who will be responsible for our great city and community.

To stay updated on the EDC’s progress throughout the year like the “Lompoc Economic Development Committee” page on Facebook.

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Building the Future Today is a column by the Lompoc Economic Development Committee. The column runs on the first and third Sundays of each month. To contact the committee, email Lompoc Economic Development Committee can also be liked on Facebook.