Commentary

07/01/2013  by John Guenther, by and Christopher Nelson

Speaker Perez’s AB 53 would create economic development plan for California


Assembly Speaker John Perez (Photo Credit: CalChannel)

Much talk is made of California as a state ranking in the top 10 of economies worldwide. It's true, we generate a lot of money in the Golden State, from Hollywood to the ports of Long Beach and San Pedro to Silicon Valley and the entrepreneurial Bay Area.

But we can't subsist on the back of giants like Apple and Google with a state and dense a diverse as ours. We need a plan that addresses the specific needs of the many regions that comprise California's vast economy. The last time the state put forth such a plan was in 2002.

Introduced by Assembly Speaker John Perez, AB53 would once again require a plan to set economic priorities statewide and do it on a regular basis. Both the California Forward Action Fund and the California Economic Summit, which deals heavily with regional economic needs, were asked for input on the legislation.

"That's what we are trying to do in the Summit process," said Susan Lovenburg, who coordinates the Summit for California Forward. "Our state's economy is made up of regional economies that often have distinct differences as well as many similarities. It's a good sign to see our regional focus has been added as amendments to AB53."

So the question is, how exactly do we go about putting forth such a plan?

The bill, which had a hearing today in front of the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, was amended to require an economic study that includes "an evaluation of policies and goals developed at the regional level."

The Summit has been doing just that for two years, participating in 16 regional forums this year across the state and engaging with 1,700 leaders. The regional amendments were added to the bill thanks to the work of the California Forward Action Fund and thanks to the forward-thinking of the Speaker's staff, which expressed regard for the work of the Summit.

That regional focus is vital to California's overall economy, which is as diverse and dynamic as the state is. Any economic plan should sync up the efforts taking place in the regions now and must reflect priorities of all regions, which are the main drivers of economic development here in the biggest economy in the U.S.

The bill will require the governor's economic development arm, GO-Biz, to take the lead in crafting an economic development strategic plan for the state that will cover the next two years. Reports after that will cover a three-year time period.

Before the plan comes together, the office will commission a study to report on, among other important things:

  • Impediments to doing business in California and reforms to business climate
  • The effectiveness of state economic development programs
  • Key industries to stay focused on
  • Emerging industries in-state and elsewhere
  • The state of California's physical and economic infrastructure
  • An evaluation of regionally developed policies and goals

In front of the committee hearing today, Lovenburg expressed support for keeping that regional focus in the bill, on behalf of the Action Fund:

"Recognizing, through our work on the California Economic Summit, that regional economies are the drivers of economic growth in California, we ask that you retain representation of proposals, policies and goals developed at the regional level in the creation of the plan."

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