2021 California Economic Summit Lifts Regional Economies As Key To Inclusive, Sustainable Growth For All Californians

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Governor Gavin Newsom speaks with CA FWD Leadership Council member Lenny Mendonca at the 2021 California Economic Summit on November 9 (Photo: Roby Behrens/CA FWD)

MONTEREY, CA, November 9, 2021 – The tenth annual 2021 California Economic Summit kicked off today in Monterey. The Summit attracted hundreds of leaders who are reenergized to work together on creating policy solutions that balance equity, environmental sustainability, and economic growth. It marked the first time cross-sector leaders from across the state have come together since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a fireside chat with California Forward Leadership Council member Lenny Mendonca, Governor Newsom discussed a dominant California economy whose performance is dwarfing that of other states.

“What defines this conference is this bottom-up notion to regionalization framework. This notion of collaboration and partnerships,” said Governor Newsom during the fireside chat (full recording at https://youtu.be/Sva00DGr2DE). The $600 million Community Economic Resilience Fund investment in this year’s budget, he added, will “support your efforts at the local level in 13 key regions in this state to make sure that our economic recovery is felt by everybody, not just some of us. And to make sure that we’re focusing on the divide, particularly that urban-rural divide.”

Other leaders recognized the value of the Summit’s work as well. “The primary message of CA FWD is, despite the dysfunction we see, it’s up to us in our communities and our nonprofits working at the regional level to find the solutions. We know the challenges,” said former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta during a conversation with California Forward Leadership Council members John Chiang and Ashley Swearengin. “I don’t give a damn how big the problem is, if you work at it, if you’re willing to sacrifice a little bit, we can achieve the goals that we’re after. It means we have to fight for it,” Panetta said.

A key focus of the Summit is how to promote and implement the historic $600 million Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF), which was signed by the governor this year. It will support the planning and implementation of regional economic strategies centered in community, equity and climate resiliency. The funds framework, developed in part through the California Economic Summit, is based on promising collaborative, inclusive and strategic regional economic development strategies.

Secretary of Labor Natalie Palugyai, Director of the Office of Planning and Research Samuel Assefa and Director of the Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) Dee Dee Myers will join the Summit on Wednesday to discuss the importance of CERF not only to regional economic equity but also to advancing the state’s climate goals.

To ensure regions are prepared to maximize the opportunity, University of California Vice President Glenda Humiston will announce a new partnership with the California Stewardship Network (CSN). The partnership consists of an investment of approximately $3 million per year, in ongoing funding, to hire 15 new UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisors and one specialist that will collaborate closely with members of CSN on community and economic development efforts, specifically in rural areas of the state.

The Summit, produced by CA FWD and members of CSN, is built on the principle that regional approaches to economic problem solving are critical to ensuring all Californians – regardless of zip code – have the opportunity to prosper.

“The Summit has long been at the center of creating solutions that move the state forward on some of our most pressing challenges,” said Micah Weinberg, CEO of CA FWD. “Bringing people together across political ideologies, regions, industries and sectors is critical to changing how we develop policies that will ultimately impact and serve all who live here for generations to come.”

In addition, the Summit will present the California Steward Leader Awards recognizing individuals who have significantly contributed to collaborating with public, private and civic leaders to advance triple-bottom-line solutions that balance equity, environmental sustainability and economic growth. Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry will be recognized as the California Steward Leader of the Year award for her work to expand broadband access. Kate Roberts, president and CEO of the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) will be recognized as California Regional Steward of the Year for her extensive work in growing MBEP into one of California’s most impactful regional organizations.

Next year, the Summit will be hosted in Bakersfield on October 27 and 28. The annual gathering has been held in Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Ontario, San Diego, Santa Rosa, Fresno and Monterey.


California Forward (CA FWD) leads a statewide movement, bringing people together across communities, regions and interests to improve government and create inclusive, sustainable growth for everyone. A 501(c)(3) organization, CA FWD drives collective action to identify solutions that can be taken to scale to meet the challenges the state is facing. CA FWD serves as the backbone for the California Stewardship Network, an alliance of regional economic development leaders, and is home to the California Economic Summit and the California Dream Index.