Speeding Towards Cash
County looks to Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway for alternative fuel development.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
A raceway that hosts five large events a year may be an unlikely site for alternative energy tech. But the county’s new Economic Development Department is forging ahead with plans to research that possibility.
Phase One is a feasibility study to look at developing a high-tech R&D park adjacent to Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway, which the county and the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) could use to woo prospective tenants.
County Redevelopment and Housing Director Jim Cook has Mazda, BMW or Mercedes Benz in mind as possible contenders for setting up shop as eco-conscious engineers. “The raceway is one of the most underutilized raceways in the nation,” he says.
In a 2010 study, the California Association for Local Economic Development called the track a “unique economic development opportunity.” Under a $70,000 consulting contract with the county, the Menlo Park-based non-profit SRI International also recommends developing an eco-friendly industry hub on the site.
On May 17, the County Supervisors approved Cook’s proposal to apply for a grant of up to $140,000 for the feasibility study.
Supervisor Jane Parker expressed some misgivings, citing potential traffic and water constraints, but said it was worth a closer look.
“Automakers like to come here, because you can push the limits on this track,” says Barry Toepke, vice president of communications at SCRAMP, the concessionaire that has operated the raceway since its 1957 inception.
SCRAMP hopes to lead on alternative fuels. “If there are going to be electric vehicle charging stations coming into the county, let us be the first,” Toepke says. “It’s definitely where the future is heading.”