Opinion

Center stage: California’s economic complexity

Illustration: David Carilett, via Shutterstock.

California will soon have a population of 40 million. It is a huge, diverse, complex state — really more of a nation-state made of distinct regions.

And California’s economy is equally complex. In fact, it’s not a state economy at all, but a series of regional economies. Californians know that the time to fix our state’s economy is now. People from every region are standing up and demanding change.

The triple bottom line: growing regional economies, improving environmental quality, and increasing opportunity for everyone.”

The California Economic Summit—which holds its fifth annual meeting in Sacramento—uniquely addresses the issues facing those regional economies by harnessing the power of regional collaboration to spur economic innovation and growth. The Summit has connected regional and state leaders to develop a shared agenda to generate jobs and improve regional competitiveness.

The importance of the effort is reflected in those iconic Californians who serve as honorary chairs: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Secretary of State George Shultz.

In a letter published this week, they are encouraging the 400-plus  Californians who will attend the Sacramento meeting to accelerate their efforts.

“For the last five years, we have been heartened to see the California Economic Summit demonstrate the potential of this refreshingly new way of doing business. The Summit has served as a key venue in the state for the leaders of diverse economic regions to rally around a shared agenda for economic prosperity that works for all Californians. The Summit coalition has never lost its focus on the triple bottom line: growing regional economies, improving environmental quality, and increasing opportunity for everyone.”

Much has been done—like the passage of $200 million in additional Career Technical Education funding to address the workforce issues.

The Summit boasts a growing network of thousands of business, civic, and public sector leaders that continues to champion investments in the next generation of skilled workers, new ways to pay for the infrastructure our economy depends on, and innovative ideas for lowering the high cost of living that is making it so difficult for millions of Californians to thrive.

The Summit has been tackling the big issues of improving workforce training to help California address the skills gap that is plaguing employers around the state, navigating state and local challenges to build housing units in a state that desperately needs them, and building and replacing crumbling infrastructure needed to move goods, service and basic necessities like water to benefit of all Californians.

By successfully addressing these issues, the Summit also helps meet the needs of all Californians—those that are doing well and those who linger at or under the poverty line and are disproportionately affected by lack of job training and access to affordable homes.

As Feinstein, Panetta and Shultz wrote:

“We are confident that California, as it always has, will continue to chart its own course when it comes to the challenges we face, whether it is lingering poverty or the specter of climate change. But we are also mindful of the fact that the economic uncertainty shaping the national dialogue is present in our state, as well. With millions of our neighbors still struggling to make ends meet, California’s success will depend on groups like the Summit charting a path forward—and promoting ideas for sustainable growth that work for all of us.”

Much has been done—like the passage of $200 million in additional Career Technical Education funding to address the workforce issues, and the creation of Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts to allow cities and counties to address their own infrastructure needs. The Summit has also supported a growing coalition of housing advocates including builders, environmentalists, equity groups and local public officials to find solutions to California’s vexing housing crisis.

And much remains to do.

We invite you to join us next Tuesday and Wednesday in Sacramento to pledge your efforts to continue the work to create real and intelligent remedies that will attract capital, generate jobs and encourage sustainable communities throughout our state.

Ed’s Note: Lenny Mendonca and Pete Weber are Co-Chairs of California Forward’s Leadership Council.

 


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